Value Chain Analysis and Community based Strategies of Chirayita (Swertia chirayita)
in Eastern Nepal
Gaire, Damodar1*, Yadav, Bijay Kumar1 and Kattel Rishi Ram2
1Tribhuvan University, Nepal
2Agriculture and Forestry University, Nepal
Submission: May 07, 2019; Published: June 11, 2019
*Corresponding author: Gaire Damodar, Assistant Professor, Tribhuvan University, Institute of Forestry, Nepal
How to cite this article: Gaire, Damodar, Yadav, Bijay Kumar, Kattel Rishi Ram. Value Chain Analysis and Community based Strategies of Chirayita (Swertia
chirayita) in Eastern Nepal. Int J Environ Sci Nat Res. 2019; 20(1): 556027. DOI:10.19080/IJESNR.2019.20.556027
The study has attempted to conduct the study on value chain analysis of Swertia chirayita, a perennial herb, is the major source of income in rural households of eastern Nepal. The field assessment for the Chirayito value chain was conducted out in Taplejung district of Nepal. The information was primarily collected through Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and Key Informants Interview. Interview with middleman and buyers were also carried out in the district headquarter and directly in the fields. It was observed that Chirayita market is decreasing as compared to the previous years. Therefore, Chirayita farmers have searched for the alternative crops for sustainable income in their own locations. However, some Chirayita farmers are still hopeful about the stability of Chirayita prices so that they would convert their uplands and sloppy lands to Chirayita farm for enhancing their income which ultimately helps for sustainable livelihoods. The Chirayita price was NRs 250 to NRs 375/kg in 2018 in Taplejung district. In 2015, farmers used to sell the dried Chirayita at the rate of NRs 650/kg which is a huge difference. The local traders have sold the dried Chirayita to Bangladeshi buyers up to 5% of total production. Likewise, 40% market in China and 50% market in India. Less than 5% of Chirayita production has been used for different medicinal purposes (Typhoid fever, cough, diarrhea, gastric, etc.) for home consumption. Nowadays, traders are interested to sell their Chirayita to Chinese buyers due to high margin or profit. The cost of production per Ropani land was calculated as NRs. 14455 after discussing with local farmers in Sirungkhim, Taplejung. Local farmers have also highlighted the products of Chirayita which can easily be sold in the markets such as Chirayita herbal tea, powder form of Chirayita (for gastric, ulcer, jaundice, blood sugar, blood pressure, typhoid fever patients), Chirayita face wash (for cosmetic items) and other herbal extracts as required. Therefore, concerned authorities should encourage to farmers, cooperative members and other concerned stakeholders create an environment for value addition of Chirayita which ultimately helps to create the income generation of poor and disadvantaged people sustainably.
Keywords: Value chain; Chirayita; Cultivation; Cooperative; Livelihoods
Of the many forest products, Chirayita is one the most traded forest products in Nepal. The botanical name of the Chirayita is “Swertia chirayita (Roxb. ex Fleming) Karsten”. Locally, it is known as “Tite or Pothi Chirayita or Tikta”. Chirayita is a perennial herb found in the temperate regions of Nepal. This is also one of the prioritized medicinal plants of Nepal . Apart from the collection of wild, it is now cultivated in most of the eastern districts of Nepal . Chirayita or Swertia comprises 100 species (Airy Shaw, 1993) of which 32 species are recorded from 40 districts of Nepal.
Around nine species of Swertia are reported to be traded in different trade centers of Nepal. Among them Swertia chirayita is considered as superior in quality. Others are Swertia alata, Swertia ungustifolia, Swertia ciliate, Swertia purpurascens,
Swertia dilatata, Swertia multicaulis, Swertia nervosa, Swertia racemosa, and Swertia tetragona and all these have business value as well. The plant is used as a bitter tonic in treatment of fever and for curing various skin diseases. S. chirayita has an established domestic (Indian) and international market, which is increasing at a rate of 10% annually .
Regional demand for S. chirayita is very high, particularly the export (and presumably re-export) trade from India to the European Union (EU) and the cross-border trade from Nepal to India (Kunwar et al., 2013) and Tibet . Recent review articles have comprehensively described the traditional uses, phyto-chemistry and pharmacology of S. chirayita, but have not covered trade in any detail [5,6]. Nevertheless, this species is one of the 32 high priority medicinal plants identified by the Government of India’s National Medicinal Plant Board (Shukla et al., 2017)
 and it is also included in the prioritized 30 medicinal plant
species for economic development by the Government of Nepal
About 90 tonnes of Chirayita have been traded from the
eastern development region of Nepal, whereas only 1.5 tones
have been traded from midwestern [9,10]. Therefore, east part
of Nepal has the highest potential for cultivation of the Chirayita
as a pocket area. Chirayita is predominantly found in most of the
Northern rural municipalities in Taplejung district. According
to data received from DFO Taplejung, the allowable harvesting
amount of Chirayita is 39.5 tones. However, 26.3 tonnes of dried
Chirayita have been transported in the fiscal year 2074/2075
which is comparatively low compared to allowable harvesting
amount. A market Study of tradable and economically important
medicinal and aromatic plants of Eastern Nepal showed that
2,32,226kg of Chirayita exports from Eastern Nepal .
Due to Chirayita price fluctuation, the farmers have looked
up for alternative cultivation. Nowadays, China`s market is
increasing while comparing to India and Bangladesh. The present
farm gate price of Chirayita is NRs 250/Kg which is 100% lower
price than the past year (According to the field survey, 2018).
Even the price is dropping, it fetches up to NRS 550 if it can be
shipped to northern neighbor China. In 2015, farm gate price
for Chirayita was NRs 600. The international price of Chirayita
is increasing in every year. The main reason of price dropping
was due to middleman and agents. Moreover, middlemen have
entered the trade who are hard bargainers, and farmers have not
been able to make as much from their crops as they used to. The
middlemen sell the herb to Chinese traders with a big markup.
There is likely unreported cross-border trade from Nepal
into India and China and from Bhutan into Tibet. He et al. 
in their study of the Nepal- China medicinal plants trade gives
detailed examples of under-reporting. They also record that
there are about 235 local paths along the 1400km long border
between Nepal and China that enable local people to cross in
order to trade.
Based on value-chain analysis and cost-benefit assessments,
S. chirayita cultivation has been shown to be profitable in Nepal.
However, since the first cost-benefit assessment was done
(2013), prices dropped from NRs 750/kg on April 2013 to a
low of 250 NRs/kg in December 2017). Taking inflation into
account further highlights the steep decline in the profitability
for local farmers, who have limited options for value-adding.
Consequently, farmers prefer to grow more profitable alternative
crops . For the functional upgrading of Chirayita, actors like
farmers, young entrepreneurs, and traders play the vital role in
the VC analysis of Chirayita. The present function of farmers was
to cultivate the Chirayita indigenously. Modern techniques of
cultivation are required, including TOT. Traders have accelerated
to Birtamod and Tibet border. Therefore, further Chirayita
networks should be established, including sustainable seedling
supply. In the present situation, cooperatives are engaged in
savings and credit. The cooperative should provide the loan to
farmers so that cultivators can stock Chirayita and sell it at the
right time (Figure 1).
The main objective of the study is to provide a comprehensive
Value Chain Analysis of Chirayita for both market and social
benefit. Chirayita farmers, middleman, district traders, regional
traders and international traders are the major stakeholders
of the study. We focused on Chirayita production in Taplejung
distrit where PAF has been implementing Chirayita Cultivation
Project since 2016. The personal interview, Focus group
discussion among the Chirayita cultivators, field verification and
questionnaire survey were the key methods for data collection.
The secondary data were reviewed related to Chirayita study.
The PAF working area (Taplejung district) were selected for
Chirayita value chain analysis. However, the study was able to
review the international market of S. chirayita using interview
and publication of international journals.
Nepal contribute the 45% of dried Chirayita in the world
market. The government of Nepal prioritizes Chirayita as
having potential for economic development and has set a high
priority on its research and cultivation. The plant is collected
from natural forest with the permission of the respective
District Forest Offices (DFO), with collectors paying a tariff of
NRs 15per kg. The government of Nepal earned NRs 2, 31, 640
as revenues by issuing collection permits from different DFOs
in the fiscal year 2073/74. Tariff or duty is not required to be
paid for cultivating species, the cultivated areas and estimated
productivity need to be verified by rangers or DFOs, National
Parks or Conservation Area Offices. The highlighted black shade
represents the Chirayita areas in the world. Nepal is the major
country to supply the Chirayita (about 45%) in the world market
Government of Nepal (GON) has earned about US$ 61,000
though Chirayito Royalties which was only recorded from the
DFO of all districts (DOF, 2016). The royalties of Chirayita from
community forestry has deposited in the fund of CFs. About 766
MT dried Chirayita have been estimated through cultivation
in Taplejung district. About 26MT Chirayita have been traded
in 2017. Farmer can increase the production through modern
Chirayita cultivation techniques. The production doubles
through transferring the seedlings from nurseries rather than
directly broadcasting in the field. The production point of view,
Chirayita farmers cultivate with the average land of 9.5 Ropani,
and average production of 1520Kg in favorable condition.
Regarding the marketing, India, China and Bangladesh are
the major international markets where buyers come in
regional wholesalers, boarder areas, and sometime in district
headquarters. In Taplejung district, demand is higher than
production. Due to decrease the prices of Chirayita, district
traders store the bough Chirayita in storage room until the
prices of Chirayita would not raise (Figure 3 & 4).
In Taplejung district, seven years price trends of Chirayita
were analyzed. It was clearly seen that price of Chirayita in China
is increasing compared to the previous years while the market
price fluctuated in Nepal and India markets. Therefore, traders
are interested to sell the Chirayita to China buyers. There is a big
question mark on why price of Chirayita fluctuates in Nepal and
India, and not in China. It was a bitter truth that professional
Chirayita farmers are declining every year due to decrease
the price of Chirayita. The Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF)
would play the catalytic role to ensure the fair markets to the
Chirayita farmers. East region of Nepal is the prime production
of Chirayita; therefore, proper cultivation of Chirayita focusing
on poor, marginalized and disadvantaged people will be future
programs considering the PAF strategies and guideline in order
to enhance the socio-economic conditions of farmers. While
selling the Chraito, making longer term agreements with China
buyers is very important.
In case of Taplejung, 85% of total Chirayita production
comes from the Chirayita cultivation and remaining 15% comes
from either community forests or government managed forests.
While comparing to value chain map of the previous years,
buyers from Bangladesh have also interested. And Nepalese
traders have been sold to Bangladeshi buyers since 2017. The
value chain map of Chirayita has been prepared according to the
field survey (2018).
The figure illustrates the value chain map of Swertia chirayita.
Now Bangladesh buyers have attracted towards Chirayita as
exporters. The existing value chain map of Chirayita in Taplejung
as follows: (Figure 5 & Table 1)
While observing in the real field (Taplejung), Chirayita
farmers have personally managed their financial matters
themselves. Most of the people are under the poor and
disadvantaged people. Therefore, PAF investment has also
remarkably seen in the community in terms of providing the
capacity building training to the rural farmers. Chirayita farmers
are willing to extend their Chirayita farm if they got grants of
financial support from PAF. However, they are cultivating the
Chirayita in their farmlands of 3-4 Ropani lands. They will be
able to cultivate at least 10 Ropani of their lands if they get the
financial assistance from PAF as a soft loan through cooperatives
or farmers` groups.
The PAF has provided the revolving fund of NRs 10, 00000
(10 Lakhs) to the Chirayita Cultivation Groups which made
cultivators invest on promoting Chirayita cultivation. In the village level, only cooperative has been providing the loan to
Chirayita farmers. In some case, farmers themselves managed
for financial assets in order to start up the enterprises. Due to
longer the returning period (about 2.5 years), MFIs almost deny
for loan approval. Therefore, the PAF should invest among the
poor and disadvantaged communities so that they would create
income for livelihoods.
In Taplejung, the commercial cultivation of Chirayita is the
main alternative adopted. Farmers cultivate maize and Chirayita
on shifting cultivation lands. Chirayita grows best on freshly
burned sloping land where there is enough rainfall and moderate
sunlight. Compared to cardamom, Chirayita is less affected by
pests and diseases. For Chirayita cultivation, the slashing and
burning are done from March to May. Some farmers cultivate
only Chirayita, while some cultivate it in between rows of maize
plants. The Chirayita seeds are broad cast on shifting cultivation
land. The plant usually takes around 18 months to mature,
depending on the variety, soil fertility, and altitude. Farmers
say that the Chirayita is ready to be harvested after three years.
Harvesting is done in November and December .
Therefore, Chirayita should be promoted in private lands in
the replace of other cereal crops. Farmers could use uncultivated/
barren lands for promoting Chirayita in order to increase the
income of farmers sustainably. The PAF roles would be capacity
building of farmers towards Chirayita cultivation along with
leasing lands, insurance, soft loan or grants, value addition and
marketing of Chirayita .
Commercial cultivation of Chirayita has been wide spread due
to higher demands in China, India and Bangladesh markets. In
the present situation (According to the field visit of Sirungkhim,
Taplejung), there was an imbalance between market demands
and gaps of Chirayita (Figure 6).
For the sustainable cultivation Chirayita farm, gaps are to be
fulfilled by incorporating eight important indicators. In Nepal,
12 species of Chirayita trades under the name of Chirayita.
While comparing the quality, Pothi Chirayita or Swertia chirayita
is under first grade on the value system. Farmers have mixed
up other species of Chirayita, and sell to middlemen or district
traders. In the field, there was not any compressed Chirayita. As
per FDGs. It was recorded that some professional farmers have
used the Chirayita compressor for reducing the volume. The
demand for Chirayita has been increasing day by day. During
lowering the price, farmers or traders do not want to supply in the
market. Chirayita price fluctuates according to demand in China
and India. On the question of legal knowledge about trade, local
farmers have not been aware of it. Farmers have many years of
experiences and knowledge on cultivating practices of Chirayita.
They have been cultivating for the past 20 years. However, they
have not experienced technical experts, Collectors or farmers sell
Chirayita to village level traders. Village level traders sell to the
district level traders (bearing the transportation cost). Further,
the district level traders sell this product in the regional markets,
which is often situated in Terai regions (such as Nepalgunj,
Krishnanagar, Bhairawaha, Biratnagar, and Kakadbhitta) and in
Kathmandu. Regional traders export crude Chirayita to Indian
and Tibetan market while very few are consumed within the
country [11, 17-19].
For the functional upgrading of Chirayita, actors like
farmers, young entrepreneurs, and traders play the vital role
on VC analysis of Chirayita. The present function of farmers was
to cultivate the Chirayita indigenously. Modern techniques on
cultivation are required including TOT. Traders have accelerated
to Birtamod and Tibet boarder. Therefore, further Chirayita
networks should be established including sustainable seedling
supply. In the present situation, cooperatives are engaged in
savings and credit. The cooperative should provide the loan to
farmers so that cultivators can stock Chirayita and sell it at right
time (Table 2) [20-24].
a) While comparing the marketing trends of Chirayita,
it was observed that price trends are decreasing in India
and Nepal. However, China market is in increasing order
compared to previous years. 40 percent of the total
production in Chirayita goes to China market which is more
than 10 percent of the previous year (2017) in Taplejung.
Agreement between Farmers` cooperative and buyers
is essential for encouraging farmers’ towards Chirayita
b) The annual harvestable amount of Chirayita is 92 tons
in Taplejung, and demand for Chirayita is 102 tons. The
imbalance between market demands and Chirayita supply
has been clearly seen. The middleman and traders used to
store the Chirayita up to 2 years during price decreasing
periods which create the big problem on market product
c) For the Business development, there are four important
issues (market information, access to market, technology and
product development, and input suppliers). In the present
situation, coordination and linkages among village, district,
and regional level traders are essential to know the updated
price list of Chirayita. Agro vets, nurseries and lead farmers
used to supply the seeds. Therefore, quality seeds should be
ensured in the village which is more productive and disease
resistant in comparing to seeds from outsiders.
d) 200-500gm is required per hectare. Farmers have been
using the direct seeds broadcasting techniques in sloppy
and unutilized lands (Pakho Bari). According to the FDG, we
knew that transplanted seedlings increase the productivity
two times with regular watering and organic manure. Famers
of Taplejung have been the relay on seeds from neighbor`s
district Illam. Quality seeds should be produced in local level
for promoting Chirayita enterprise in a long run.
e) No doubt, farmers can produce Chirayita after at least
2.5 years. There are high demands of Chirayita, but farmers
also imposed to store harvested Chirayita due to lowering
market price. Therefore, the PAF should study on marketing
channel, and be finding out the possible markets where
Chirayita price would be high.
f) Local farmers used to clean, make air dry, store,
compress and sell to middlemen or district traders as post harvesting techniques. Besides these, no more value addition
of Chirayita in Nepal. Further value addition of Chirayita has
been recommended in the village or district level, led by