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Stevia can help meet sugar demand

From The Financial Express - 2006-06-03

Stevia, a kind of herbal plant which is widely used as an alternative to sugar in many developed countries like Australia, Canada, China, Japan and the United States (US) for a long time, can help meet country's growing demand for sugar, an expert said.

The scientific name of the herbal plant is 'Stevia Serrata' and family name being 'Asteraceae'. It is sometimes known as sweet leaf or 'Chinipata'.

Talking to the news agency, herbal scientist Alamgir Mati said the compound made of stevai leaf is 300 times sweeter than our common sugar.

Elaborating the quality of the plant, he further said 5gm stevia leaf contains the same power as it exists in 1.0 kg of sugar. Mati also said 1.0 kg of sugar is being sold now at Tk 65 while it takes at best only Tk 5.0 to produce 5gm stevia.

"Being an agro-based country, Bangladesh could easily cultivate the plant in its vast 'char' lands as it grows well in open space having regular sunlight," he added. "After 60 days of cultivation, the leaf of the plant can be harvested and be turned into granules like that of sugar", said the herbal expert.

The renowned herbal expert said the stevia granules could be used in making bread, lozenge, biscuit and sweetmeat like sugar.

Alamgir, who is now working with the plant, said "If the country's vast char areas are brought under Stevia cultivation it can help reduce the import of sugar side by side help create job opportunities for a large number of unemployed youths.

Describing medicinal quality of the plant, the herbal expert said it has no side effect as an alternative to sugar. Rather, it reduces blood pressure risks of the obesity and diabetic patients because it contains low- carbohydrate.

The expert urged the government to take effective measures for the cultivation of the plant, especially in the backdrop of fall of sugar production in Bangladesh.


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