India has a stock of 80.40 million tonnes of bamboo in its forests, as reported by the Planning Commission in 2003. Northeastern states account for 66 per cent of the total stock (see: Pole position). inbar estimates domestic trade in bamboo involves 20.30 million tonnes and is worth Rs 2,000 crore (see table: Turn over). Figures exist on segment-wise turnover of the bamboo industry in India; but whether value addition to bamboo takes place in the northeast states, or adds to the economy of the region, is not researched. Experts concur it is usually the small-scale handicraft business in bamboo that reinvests the most back into these states, the country’s bamboo reservoirs. But even in this segment, if one takes the incense stick trade as a benchmark for value addition, only 55 per cent of Rs 1,159 crore made from the handicrafts and agarbati trade accrues to the northeast.
The states do earn some royalty from extraction but considering the area the plant covers, the sum is a pittance. State revenue could shoot if bamboo products were made in the region. But as of now, bamboo harvested in most states is either taken by the two paper mills in the region as raw stock, consumed within households at low value addition products like mats, or taken out of the northeast raw. Take Mizoram’s case: it earns a paltry Rs 66 lakh as annual revenue. Much of the stock is unutilised for lack of opportunities to people.
Assam, too, scuttles away its opportunities by leasing out all its reserve forests containing bamboo to the paper mills. (It intends to continue to do so even after the flowering, according to an moef report). One of Assam’s thickest bamboo forest areas is in North Cachar hills