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Kerala is looking at a Rs 100-crore-per-year money tree in bamboo after a studied brush with Chinese technology. One of the key ideas is to substitute the wood used in building construction with flattened bamboo board.
"Another idea that will have the products heading to the construction market in next three months is the bamboo tile. The factory in Kozhikode has absorbed the Chinese technology on manufacturing bamboo tiles and has been gearing up with state-of-the-art machinery. New hands have been hired and are getting trained in the latest processes and material handling," PJ Joy, chairman, Kerala State Bamboo Corporation, told FE.
The corporation targets Rs 100 crore turnover through the sale of bamboo flooring tiles alone. Country exports about Rs 100 crore in bamboo flooring materials and the domestic market consumes another Rs 100 crore worth bamboo flooring materials.
Kerala has cleared about Rs 1.28 crore to the state PSU for the modernisation of the plant at the Kozhikode complex. The corporation has pitched for another Rs 1 crore for setting up a design centre with forward integration.
"Diversification cannot but pay and hence the R&D and labortary infrastructure is getting reinforced," says T Sukumaran Nair, managing director, state bamboo corporation.
Current bamboo products from Kerala are curtains, furniture, bamboo ply houses and handicrafts. Bamboo lamps running on solar panels and batteries are also slowly gaining currency. About 25,000 weaving families are dependent on the corporation.
Flattened bamboo boards, counted to replace wood in construction, will be manufactured in the corporation's factory in Angamali, near Kochi.
The bamboo board unit employs about 75 workers, Nair said.
Though the company had been producing flattened bamboo boards earlier, this had not made its mark in the market. The new upgraded version, to be manufactured by September, will be in tune with the demands for resort construction at tourism destination and the shelters for the defence forces.
“Much would also depend on the raw material situation," says P K Kunjalikutty, state industry minister, in a note of caution. "Though 67% of the bamboo in the state comes from the household sector, the sourcing from the forest resources too will have to surmount legal and transportation barriers. Kerala's Bamboo Mission has also sought support from participatory forest management committees in a larger scale, to step up the bamboo availability," he says.
At present, homestead bamboo gets fairly attractive returns from Hindusthan Newsprint Limited. (HNL).
Country's bamboo economy is expected to cross Rs 26,000 crore by 2015, according to the report of National Mission on Bamboo Technology and Trade Development under the Planning Commission in 2013. The demand for bamboo plywood is envisaged to grow to Rs 500 crore, that of bamboo pulp to Rs 2,088 crore, of bamboo furniture to Rs 3,265 crore, bamboo scaffolding to Rs 861 crore, housing construction demand to Rs 100 crore , road construction demand to Rs 274 crore and that of bamboo grids to Rs 100 crore. Planning Commission had also estimated that the demand for miscellaneous industry, like ice cream sticks, fire crackers, bamboo lathis and ladders will grow to Rs 600 crore by next year. The proposition is to replace the projected timber import to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore in the next decade till 2025. It was this ambitious projection by Centre, that set the Kerala government on the bamboo business trail, even with investment in Chinese technology.