Kaptipada: There are vast sal forests spread over many areas near the Similipal forest in Kaptipada block of Mayurbhanj district.
Generally sal seeds ripen during April-May and fall down from the trees. Tribal people living near forests collect the seeds and sell them.
Tribal families race to collect these seeds from dense forests early morning. Usually they go into the forests with food and water, as they have to work hard throughout the day to collect the seeds. After bringing the seeds home, they dry them under the sun and clean then before selling them. But the tribals do not get reasonable prices for the rigorous labour they put in.
Sal seeds are used for producing oil, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, medicines etc. In the absence of reasonable market pricing of sal seeds by the government, the collection of seeds is getting hampered.
Brokers are purchasing sal seeds at very low prices and the tribals are finding it difficult to get even two square meals. This has hindered seed collection in the Kaptipada area.
The faulty policy of the government has resulted in distress sale of sal seeds, which is a minor forest produce. Sal seeds are being sold at Rs 10 to 12 a kg, and tribals are losing interest in collecting them. Tonnes of seeds are getting destroyed in the forests.
Moreover, as panchayats are empowered to handle the issue of marketing sal seeds, the forest department is not in a position to help tribals.
Reacting, Kaptipada forest ranger Maheswar Singh said, “The forest department is not empowered to purchase sal seeds. Steps will be taken at our end after discussing the matter with the divisional forest officer.”