Tendu Leaf

Madhya Pradesh is the biggest Tendu Leaves (Leaves of Diospyros melonoxylon) producing State of India. The average annual production of Tendu Leaves in Madhya Pradesh is around 25 lakh standard bags, which is nearly 25% of the total Tendu Leaves production of the country. One standard bag of Tendu Leaves in Madhya Pradesh means 1000 bundles of 50 leaves each.

The leaves are obtained from Tendu tree (Diospyros melanoxylonRoxb.) belonging to Family Ebenaceae, which is endemic to Indian sub-continent. According to Troup (1921) Diospyros melanoxylon (inclusive of D. tomentosa and D. tupru) is one of the most characteristic trees of the dry deciduous forests throughout India, covering the entire Indian peninsula the area of distribution extends upto Nepal in sub-Himalayan tracts including the Indian plain, Gangetic plain, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, western coast upto Malabar and Eastern coast upto Coromandel. The plant is also met with on the Nilgiris and Serawalli hills in the south.

Diospyros melanoxylon leaf is considered the most suitable wrapper on account of the ease with which it can be rolled and its wide availability. Leaves of many other plants like Butea monosperma, Shorea robustaetc. also find use as Bidi wrappers in different parts of the country but the texture, flavour and workability of diospyros leaves are unmatchable. The wide-scale use of Diospyros melanoxylon leaves in Bidi industry is mainly based on their enormous production, agreeable flavour, flexibility, resistance to decay and capacity to retain fires. The broad morphological characters on which leaves, are selected and catagorised for Bidi making are size, thickness of leaves, texture, relative thickness of midrib and lateral veins.

Bidi rolling is the primary job which is very simple and can be done at any place at any time. It is a source of subsidiary occupation and supplementary income to lakhs of poor rural folk Bidi industry provides employment to the rural population during off season for collection of bidi leaves. Obviously, bidi industry has a vital role in rural welfare and in promoting rural economy.

The procedure for collection and processing of tendu leaves has almost been standardised and almost the same procedure is used everywhere. The tendu plants are pruned in the months of February and March and the mature leaves are collected after about 45 days. The leaves are collected in bundles of 50 to 100 leaves, which are dried in sunlight for about a week. The dried leaves are sprinkled with water to soften them and then filled tightly in jute bags and exposed to direct sunlight for 2 days. The bags, thus packed and cured can be stored till their use in Bidi manufacture. Great care is needed while plucking, curing and storage of tendu leaves. It is a sensitive product and with the slightest mistakes or oversight during any of these processes their quality deteriorates rendering them unfit for making Bidis. 

The State Government enacted an Act in 1964 and took over the trade in Tendu Leaves. In order to give more benefits to forest dwellers in collection and trade of Tendu Leaves, the Madhya Pradesh State Minor Forest Produce (Trading & Development) Co-operative Federation Limited was formed in 1984. In 1988, the State Government decided to involve co-operative societies in the trade of Tendu Leaves. For this, a three tier Co-operative structure was designed. M.P.State Minor Forest Produce Federation was placed at the apex level of this structure. At the primary level, Primary Forest Produce Co-operative Societies were constituted. At the secondary level, District Forest Produce Co-operative Unions were formed.

Collection of    Tendu Leaves is done by the Primary Co-operative Societies of actual pluckers of Tendu Leaves. There are over 15,000 collection centres in the State. The collection work is seasonal. It lasts for about 6 weeks. Depending on the geographical location of Districts, the season may commence any time from the middle of April to second week of May. The collection stops ten to fifteen days before the onset of the monsoon, so that leaves can be cured, bagged & safely transported to godowns.

Source: MP Minor Forest Produce Federation (http://www.mfpfederation.org/)