Kochi, Apr 12: Notching several firsts to its credit, the Vanchivayal Tribal Eco-Development Committee (EDC) today bagged an order from Germany to export four tonnes of organic pepper, grown by the tribals near the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala.
Handing over the export order to Geeta Ramesan of the Vanchivayal EDC at a function here, Kerala Forests Minister Binoy Viswom said this was the first time in the country that a tribal group had been able to get not only International Certification for its organic pepper but also bag an export order.
Mr Viswom said the first consignment of four tonnes of organic pepper will be exported to 'Ecoland Herbs and Spices', a consortium of farmers in Germany, from this month.
While earlier, the tribals used to sell the pepper to middlemen for a pittance, they were now able to get a price, which was 33 per cent more than the prevailing pepper price, he added.
Describing the initiative as a model for the rest of the country, the minister said the Kerala Government would try to extend it to other commodities such as ginger, too.
The Vanchivayal Tribal EDC was among many such EDCs functioning in Idukki district of Kerala under the auspices of 'Periyar Foundation' in collaboration with the Kerala Forest Department.
Set up as part of the 'Participatory Forest Management' initiative of the State Forest department, the committees enlist the villagers' help for conservation of the Periyar Tiger Reserve.
Lauding the forest department's role, the minister said that it had helped to find a good market for the pepper grown by the tribals and save them from the clutches of exploitative middlemen.
While the first consignment of pepper would be exported by about 60-odd tribal families of the 'urali' colony of Vanchivayal, next year more tribal communities such as 'palliyan' and 'mannan' will join the trade, he said.
Also present at the function were Kochi Mayor Mercy Williams, Dr Sebastian Paul, MP, Prof K V Thomas and Ms E S Bijimol, MLAs, T M Manoharan, Principal Chief Forest Conservator, Kerala, and Ms Padma Mahanti and Deputy Director, Periyar Tiger Reserve.