Privately, many manufacturers tell us that to source bamboo sticks from the North East, they have to spend almost Rs 17 per kilogram on transport alone. If they have to import the same thing from Vietnam, they end up spending less than Rs 3 per kilo.
In addition, there were logistical problems which were common at the time. But the infrastructure in the Northeast has improved dramatically in recent years.
The Indian Agarbathi Manufacturers Association (AIAMA) and its representatives have met with many political leaders at state and central level.
“Our former President, Sarath Babu PS, Arjun Ranga of Cycle, and many other industry representatives have met with Union Ministers and urged them not to import restrictions on bamboo yet.”
“We are also doing our best to become atmanirbhar (self-contained), but it definitely takes time to get there. Even today, India needs 6,000 tons of bamboo sticks per month. We only produce 120 tons, of which Cycle consumes 100 tons. Machinability with imported bamboo is very high, but low with Indian bamboo,” Suresh tells us.
Proactive government policies
Everyone rushed northeast because of the abundance of bamboo available in the area. Ornamental bamboo cannot be used to craft staves. The right species of bamboo is needed, especially one that can withstand machinability. It has to withstand the stress and tension of the machine. It should also be easily rolled up.
Manufacturers have taken several years to identify a suitable species (bamboo tulda) of bamboo in India. Once they did, they had a plan to counter the possible depletion of said species. Young trees are planted in many parts of the country today. They tell us that the Indian government has been proactive in helping the industry.
The factories that make these sticks must be close to the forests. Even today, in many parts of the Northeast, bamboo is transported from the forests using the water current of a river or stream that may flow downstream.
But 6,000 tons of bamboo cannot be transported with such makeshift methods. It must be transferred by road or by ship, which, in turn, requires a good infrastructure.
Once transported, electricity is needed for the factories that set up, where the bamboo is turned into sticks that can be used to make agarbattis. There is a huge electricity deficit in these forest regions because almost no lines cross them.
The Department of Development of the North East Region (DoNER) has been cooperative in this regard, industry officials said. swarajya. Much progress has been made in the region in recent years.
Today, the agarbatti industry is busy searching for quality seeds and exploring a suitable agroforestry model to grow bamboo independently. A whole supply chain is being created, one step at a time. Any change will only be reflected in a few years, they say.
“Many Western countries today use incense sticks as air fresheners. Agarbattis are in demand all over the world and our products are not limited to sales in India only. It has become an indulgence, a habit that people people have cultivated as part of their way of life,” said Sarath Babu PS, second-generation agarbatti entrepreneur and former AIAMA president. swarajya.
When it comes to keeping hand rolling as a skill set, he says the younger generation of entrepreneurs in India prefer mechanical incense stick making.
Thus, talent is now restricted to certain pockets of Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Nagpur and Mysuru. But hand-rolled agarbattis are now more valuable than machine-made ones, he adds.