Another area for R&D work which would result in success could be to work on biopesticides as there is a strong move to reduce the use of synthetic products. Already new plants have emerged as promising candidates apart from the already widely used pyrethrins. Neem tree extracts are now being studied and some new bioactive products have been isolated. This is a good NWFP for expansion as the world market for pesticides is very large. More plants have to be subjected to R&D, some leads could be obtained from traditional uses.
Many forest trees possess fatty oil containing seeds which could be processed to give vegetable oils. Edible oils are used as cooking oils and in the food industry. Bulk of the oil is used in soap-making on both small and large scale. Some are used as components of other industrial products after secondary processing. Many of the oils are industrially produced on a commercial scale. But the process of production of fixed oils is simple and can be carried out at rural level. The equipment required is simple and can be fabricated in the country. bsp;
The primary processing of seeds to yield the oil is dry expression avoiding contamination and taking care not to subject to temperatures leading to decomposition. Sometimes boiling the crushed raw material in water will yield the solid fat on cooling. Training in harvesting the fruits at the optimum maturity and processing can be easily imparted. In fact the processing has been practised as a cottage industry in many countries for subsistence uses.
Secondary Processing of Vegetable Oils
Apart from cooking oil and domestic lighting, vegetable oils have also been used as a fuel in small diesel engines, enabling a certain degree of mechanization in rural areas.
Although the oils are primarily exported, they can be further processed to yield much more valuable products for a number of industries. For example, lauric oils yield C12-C15 fatty alcohol derivatives, which are components of detergents. These alcohol derivatives, originally made exclusively from lauric oils, now come from petroleum synthetics. The growing demand for natural products could boost the demand for fatty alcohol derivatives from lauric oils. This will be a growing market to be exploited by the palm oil producing countries by downstream processing of their oils to produce these fatty alcohol derivatives. This multi-billion dollar lauric oil market is supplied by palm kernels mainly from coconuts (Cocos nucifera L. - 2,573,000 t of oil/yr) and the African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq. - 997,000 t/yr). Small amounts are also obtained from wild groves of the babassu palm (Orbignya sp.) in Brazil (150,000 t/yr) and a few other Central and South American palms such as Acrocomia aculeata, Scheelea martina, Syagnu species and Astrocaryum species.
Tannins are a group of non-crystallisable compounds widely distributed in plants, but usually localized in specific parts such as beans, nuts, fruits, barks, and stems. In addition to combining with animal skins to form a strong and flexible leather, tannins also react with salts of iron to form dark-blue or greenish-black compounds, the basis of common inks. Tanning materials are often utilized in oil drilling to reduce the viscosity of the drill without reducing the specific gravity and in the production of pharmaceuticals. The main industrial uses of tannins are leather, dyes, inks, antioxidants, lubricants, and drugs.
Tannins are extracted from many plant sources. The processing of the plant parts to obtain tannin extracts and tannin powder, though simple, needs carefully controlled conditions.
Dyes and Colorants
Colouring for food, textiles, paper and paints were originally obtained from plant and mineral resources. With the advent of synthetic dyes and pigments, the demand for natural dyes decreased so much so use of natural dyes was almost restricted to some food uses. Due to the toxic nature of synthetic dyes and pigments, particularly if used in quantities in excess of permissible limits, and the emerging demand for naturals, there is a resurgence of interest for natural dyes and pigments. Many of the forest resources are rich in dyes and pigments and hence could be sustainably harvested for commercial use. Industrial processing of the raw materials collected could be carried out at rural level if supplies of raw material are not very large.
Many countries have sources of plant based sweeteners other than industrially produced sugar. These can be good substitutes in rural areas as people do not always have access to refined sugar. Some of the resources for getting the sweeteners are the sap of palm flowers, parts of plants such as leaves of stevia, arils of Thaumatococcus daniellii and bark sap of the maple tree. The final products are syrups, powders and solids. In addition bees honey obtained as a NWFP is used as a sweetening agent. The primary processing of these raw materials is simple and can be carried out at rural level. The training required can be imparted and the equipment needed fabricated locally. In many instances, fermentation has to be prevented and any toxic substances have to be removed as in the case of stevia where heavy metals is a problem. Processing as a small-scale industry can be cost effective and the product has a local market as well as a secondary use in confectioneries. The remaining liquor (molasses) could be fermented to yield alcoholic beverages and vinegar.
Gums are natural hydrocolloids mostly produced by plants as a protective after injury. They have diverse applications in pharmaceutical, cosmetic, food and textile industries. Though many synthetic products have replaced the uses of natural gums, their use continues for specific purposes. The move for green products is sure to give a boost to the production of natural gums.
As a food additive, a wide range of toxicological evaluation is needed to satisfy the international regulatory committees concerned with the safety of food and with specifications of their identity and purity. Gums of the identity and quality permitted for use in foodstuffs command high prices, but there is a large supply of gums from many other botanical sources which subsequently only command low prices for use in technological (i.e. non-food) applications. It is important for exporters and merchants in gum-producing countries, to monitor the decisions of the international regulatory committees as these greatly influence international gum trading.
Gums and resins are used in industries for paper, textiles, adhesive, pharmaceutical, food, and perfumery, as well as in paints, coatings, printing, detergents, and cosmetics. In addition gums from other plants are locally used and new uses for these gums are being investigated.
Balsams are resinous mixtures containing large amounts of benzoic acid and cinnamic acids or esters of these acids. They are used in medicine other consumer industries. These are mainly pathogenic products obtained as exudates from trees.
Natural waxes are NWFPs of commercial value used as components of industrial products like candles, varnishes, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Some of them are collected, melted and formed into cakes or pieces. Some waxes such as candellila can be obtained by solvent extraction. These too can be processed at rural level for income generation. Even with severe competition from synthetic waxes, some specific properties of natural waxes have kept them in demand. The processing and refining of the wax oils are simple but important in order to produce good quality grades.
Some parts of plants or residues after extraction of the main product could be used to produce other products such as fibre board boxes and hand made paper. Pine needles are one such source of lignocellulose which could be converted to fibre board for use as packing material.
It is estimated that on an average, the availability of needles of Pinus roxburghii per ha is between 2.5-3 t/ha. Even a portion of the needles (15-20 percent) if collected from easily approachable forests, will be sufficient to meet the requirement of number of small mills. It will help in preventing the forest fires without disturbing the ecology. The areas under Pinus roxburghii in the sub-Himalayan region is 1 million hectares. The needles could be collected (April-June) with rakes and baled at the site with mobile baling presses for transportation. The process for the production of fibre boards from pine needle used in the sub Himalayan region in India is simple and can be adapted by other countries.
The process does not require any binder. The process consists in giving a softening treatment in a rotary digester followed by defibration to get a suitable pulp, in a Hollander type beater. The pulp is blended with pulp made from waste paper, then converted into a sheet in a sheet-former of a single cylinder machine. The wet sheets (2 or 3) from cylinder machine are laminated and hot pressed to get a thicknesses of 3.2 mm. The boards are given a coating to make them water resistant. The yield of the fibre board is 55-60 percent based on the moisture free weight of the needles. The board is converted into packing boxes using wooden battens which are stapled with a machine specially designed for the purpose. A few perforations or slots are given to the board for fruit breathing. Fibre angles could also be used in place of wooden battens for converting the board into a box.
The main effluents of the plant are dissolved matter and small quantities of suspended lignocellulosic fines. These pass through the washing screen. The effluent from the mildly cooked pine needles contain the dissolved matter consisting of mainly colouring matter, resinous substances and some quantity of lignin. About 7-8 cubic meters of liquor will be obtained from each ton of digested needles. The pH of the liquor is around 6 and could be disposed in a close dry channel if available. If not available, some detention tanks may have to be provided, along with an arrangement to remove the suspended particles. The tanks could be emptied during rainy season when the liquor gets diluted with rain water.
This simple and appropriate technology may prove useful particularly in rural and hilly areas as well as in certain developing countries where pine needles and surplus agriculture residues are available.
Marketing problems often beset the industrial development of NWFPs in developing countries as it is a function of two groups, the rich buyers and the helpless producers. The prices are dictated by the buyers who control the market. Poor producers have been let down so many times that some have given up processing NWFPs in favour of other livelihoods. As a result, there could be the eventual disappearance of certain products from the markets. A case in point is the producers of Ylang Ylang oil in the Indian Ocean Region countries who are abandoning this product in favour of other crops because of the unreliability and the low prices of the market. Therefore the investment on and promotion of industrial processing of NWFPs has to carefully consider marketability and the use of these as products for import substitution. Alternatively, local utilization of NWFPs for downstream processing and development of new products could be encouraged.
Some regular suppliers of NWFPs to the world market are reducing their supply as a result of increased local utilization. These niches in markets should be identified and included in planning of products for industrial production. All attempts should be made to minimize production costs and improve the quality of the products in order to be in a better position to compete in the world markets. Trade promotional activities should be seriously undertaken by the Governments in order to advertise their specific products and to negotiate marketing agreements.
Although the green movement in industrialized countries is creating increased demand for natural NWFPs, "green" products still must comply standard specifications and legal requirements of the countries. Furthermore, price of production still has to be minimized in order to be competitive in the world market. The protective nature of the markets and price fluctuations both dictate the need for considered market strategies. It could be more advantageous to decide on the scale of production based on local and national demands and the possibilities for secondary processing or use in the manufacture of other consumer products such as soaps, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Much research and development work is required to tap the full potential of NWFPs. Industries of essential oils, dyes, medicinal plant products established to date have been a result of R&D on naturally occurring plant species. Research has studied only a fraction of the flora. Research needs range from development of superior propagation materials, agrotechnology, to new products and marketing of finished products. Moreover once research leads are found, it also takes time and more development work before being accepted for use as drugs or as additives in other consumer products.
Because industrial research in developed countries focuses on synthetic substitutes as soon as a new useful natural product is discovered, it is vital for developing countries to safeguard the property rights of the original resource with international conventions, while at the same time developing higher-yielding and disease-resistant varieties through genetic improvement.
THREAT FROM SYNTHETIC SUBSTITUTES
Cheaper synthetic substitutes have always threatened markets for NWFPs. However, the long-term effects of synthetic drugs and the development of resistance by pathogenic parasites to synthetic drugs have weighted the scales on the side of natural NWFPs. More and more R&D is done through joint collaboration to study the medicinal and other uses of plants products. The resurgence of interest on naturals has resulted in more funds being allocated to this type of R&D required to reduce costs of production.
Any threat from synthetic products should be taken as a challenge for vigorous R&D work to improve the economic competitiveness of the product. In the essential oil industry, the survival of many essential oils and flavour industries is largely due to intensive research on breeding new and better oil yielding varieties, improvements on agrotechnology and post-harvest technology, by-product utilization, value added product development, new formulations resulting in improving their competitiveness vis a vis synthetic substitutes.
Pine oleoresin and its two main products, the rosin and turpentine oil, afford another excellent example of an industry that survived and co-exists with its petrochemical-based synthetic competitors, synthetic resins for surface coating industry and mineral turpentine as a solvent and thinner in paint industry. Through sustained research on chemical modification of natural resin and development of natural resin based derivatives like hydrogenated resins, disproportionated resins, alkyd resins and melamised resins, the natural resin retained a place of its own in the surface coating industry. Similarly, research and development on natural turpentine, elevated it from the position of a cheap solvent and thinner to a valuable chemical feedstock for the manufacture of perfumery chemicals and a wide range of pesticides.
FUTURE PROSPECTS FOR PROCESSING OF NWFPs
New drugs represent a potentially valuable source of NWFP income. New product development is focused on the substitutes for synthetics that are going out of favour and new curatives for chronic diseases such as arthritis, rheumatism, asthma, allergies.
As mentioned above, agreements between the country of origin of plant resources and the R&D institutions in developed countries should guarantee that a portion of profits from newly developed drugs revert to the source country. A more important role has to be played by the scientists in developing countries in participating in joint research programmes leading to the discovery of new drugs. Though this appears to be a long shot financial benefits accruing from such work could be substantial.
New markets should be identified for expanded production, for example in the area of green products. Production of stable, low volume, high value products which can be stored for long periods pending market fluctuations will be advantageous.
Regulations governing the registration and import of processed NWFPs to Europe and USA are being reviewed and a somewhat relaxed set of regulations is expected. This could open up markets for useful and safe NWFPs from developing countries. The proposed European monographs on herbal medicines and raw materials now being developed by the European Scientific Cooperative for Phytotherapy (ESCOP) would make it easier for developing countries to process the NWFPs to comply with these specifications.
Another area that is opening up is that of "Alternative Medicine". Many societies have been formed to promote this sector and simplified registration procedures are expected. Oral and external use medicines can be sold without claims or indications. This level of registration will need proof of only their safety and quality control of production and not evidence of efficacy. This opening can be exploited by the already established herbal medicines used in systems like Ayurveda and Chinese medicines.
An increase in the number of herbal products in pharmacies of developed countries is a testimony to a growing demand for these products. Studies have shown that the cost factor has little or no effect on the sales and that the trend for herbal medicines in Europe is increasing. As a result opportunities for collaboration with developed countries are increasing and joint venture projects for R&D are expected to increase.
It has to be emphasized that the future of these products will also depend on advertising and packaging, in addition to conformation to specifications. In consumer-oriented societies, attractive and safe packaging is as important as the quality of the product.
The recognition and the will of governments to implement multiple use forestry programmes are essential for the development of sustainable utilization of NWFPs. The forest management policies and plans should consider timber and NWFPs as complementary in the use of forests for economic gain, while conserving the forests and their biodiversity.
Decisions on the scale of exploitation of NWFPs from wild sources have to be based on accurate inventories of plant resources, and the feasibility of sustainable harvesting. Planting programmes should consider medicinal and aromatic plants as a priority for industry development, as niche markets for these products already exist.
Information on the Resource Base
A thorough understanding of the resource base is absolutely necessary before a country can plan development of industries based on NWFPs. Hence it is necessary to:
identify all the important NWFP resources which are used or required by local communities or needed by trade and industry within the country or for export. This exercise should be conducted with participation of local user collectors and representatives of trade and industry.
compile all information on NWFPs according to their use and prioritise items which provide substantial social benefits and/or large volume internal or export trade as raw material for industry, including information on use and value of exported species.
In addition to other policies that demonstrate a commitment to NWFP resources as a means of employment generation, governments should enact the following processing-related policies:
Facilitate free market economic policies by removing bureaucratic controls and other restrictions.
Reform regulatory and legislative controls on processed NWFPs such as medicinal products manufactured according to indigenous pharmacopoeias in a manner conducive to the development of industry.
Include essential oil and other NWFP production into afforestation and reforestation projects and other agroforestry programmes.
Research and Development
The necessary inputs in terms of infrastructure and facilities should be provided to encourage R&D necessary for the development of the industrial processing of NWFPs. The following activities should receive the urgent attention of governments and other donor agencies:
R&D on process and product development. Appropriate technology adaptable at forest or rural locations.
Development of downstream processing to produce value added products.
Strengthening of R&D institutes including provision of pilot plant processing facilities for testing viability and for training personnel.
Setting up facilities for design and fabrication of process equipment for appropriate technology as well as pilot plants for scale up operations.
Develop indigenous scientific and technological capabilities in industrial utilization of NWFPs by training overseas.
As mentioned earlier, marketability will be a crucial factor in determining the failure or success of industries. For local markets, user industries should be promoted so that locally produced NWFPs can be used to save foreign exchange needed for importation of such additives. Further processing to yield value added products will be limited by the local demand situation unless they could be produced at prices to be competitive in the world market. Even if the cost of production is low and quality of the products are good, it will be difficult to enter the protected world market.
In terms of improving market outlets, the following activities are recommended:
conduct feasibility studies for new ventures in terms of investments, marketability, sustainability, and economic viability, and potential for joint ventures.
increase entrepreneurs' awareness about the potential of NWFP industrial processing through workshops, symposia and exhibitions.
promote trade through visits to brokers/buyers and participation in trade fairs, etc.
Financial and Infrastructural Support
Establishment of small-scale industries based on NWFPs in rural areas needs financial resources and other infrastructural support. Plans for such projects should include funding from governments and other aid organisations and international development agencies. Funds earmarked for such development projects should be disbursed under proper supervision to make sure that maximum benefits are obtained. The involvement of farmers, government officials, NGOs and other agencies on a day to day basis will ensure the proper implementation of such projects.
Private entrepreneurs can be attracted to invest in rural industries by improving the accessibility to the sites of NWFPs, and by providing easy access to credit and tax incentives. Extra funds should be allocated for appropriate institutional development and R&D needs of agroforestry and appropriate process technology to assist speedier realization of potential benefits achievable by the NWFP utilization. The papers by Sène, Arnold, and Pswarayi-Riddihough and Jones discuss in more detail the financial resources and other infrastructural support needed for NWFP ventures.
It is hoped that governments will give serious consideration to the above and provide legislative, financial, administrative and other support to enhance transfer of technology, human resource development, and establishment of industries based on NWFPs.
Governments should join forces with international organisations and donor agencies to provide technical assistance and support for the management, conservation and development of forests.
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