BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES OF THE STEVIA: THE MIRACLE PLANT TO PREVENT DIABETES
WHAT IS DIABETES?:
According to International Diabetes Federation, ‘Diabetes is a chronic disease’. Diabetes affects the body when pancreas are dysfunctional and do not produce insulin. The condition is also obvious if the already produced insulin could not be utilised effectively.
Insulin act as a facilitator hormone which let glucose pass into the cells from the bloodstream. If insulin use is not effective or if the pancreas could not produce insulin, a high level of glucose will lead to a condition called hyperglycaemia.
This could affect various organs in the body and can lead to ‘CVD, stroke, chronic kidney disease, damage to the eyes and if untreated diabetes may also lead to death. Diabetes has some pertinent symptoms such as frequent urination, heightened thirst and hunger. Diabetes can be prevented by regular healthy diet and physical exercise, maintaining an optimum body weight, and non-use of tobacco.
The International Diabetes Federation marks November 14 as the world Diabetes day, ‘the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign’. The day is the birthday of Canadian medical scientist Sir Frederick Banting, who ‘co-discovered insulin and its therapeutic potential.’ The theme for 2018-19 is ‘Diabetes concerns every family.’
The importance of diabetes prevention can be gauged from the fact that
“One in eleven adults in the world has diabetes (425 million), two-thirds of people with diabetes are of working age (327 million), two-thirds of people with diabetes live in urban areas (279 million) and one in two adults with diabetes is undiagnosed (212 million).”
Stevia (aka sweet tulsi in India) is a plant extract which act as a substitute to sugar and plays a significant role as a natural sweetener. It is estimated that the plant compounds have upto 150 times the sweetness of sugar. Stevia has nil calorific value and taste lasts for a longer duration.
India’s food body, the FSSAI, had in 2015 given a go-ahead to the food industry to use stevia in a range of products. The food industry can now use stevia in carbonated, flavoured drinks, desserts, yoghurts, ready-to-eat cereals, fruit nectars and jams.
STEVIA: BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES
With the FSSAI permission to use stevia in a wide range of products, the industrial demand has shot up. According to an economic times report, due to a lag in domestic production of stevia extract, the consumers import the produce at a cost of Rs 5.5-6.5 lakh for a 100 kg consignment.
This calls for a boost in local production as it fetch good remunerative price for growers. The report also estimate that the stevia products market would grow to a staggering 500 crore by 2022. An ever growing population who are highly educated and health conscious are increasingly demanding healthy and organic products. Due to this there is a need for scaling up of production.
Although input costs are high during the initial phase, the plant requires lower maintenance with as little water requirement and that too 5% of sugarcane. Input cost burden can be reduced with the help of subsidy from the government. It is estimated that farmers get upto 40 times more profit on stevia than on sugarcane. The value addition may fetch even higher profits as a single dried stevia leaf is worth $2 per kg in the international market.
References: Economic Times, IDF, Wikipedia