People with diabetes may no longer have to care for insulin shots; they will not need to resist the temptation for tea or sweets. Will Stevia become the lifestyle and replace sugar. Will it be a healthy option for people? Will it be a challenge for sugar industry and sugarcane farmers? Prakash Naiknawre, Max Inc’s Country Head, in an exclusive interview to Agri Nation, tells about stevia in detail to Shakti Sharan
Is it possible that with the use of stevia, people suffering from diabetes may not have to leave dessert and drinking tea?
It is certainly possible from stevia sugar. Stevia is completely safe for diabetic patients. It has been tested in many countries. With the use of stevia sugar, there will not be any need of taking insulin shots. People suffering from diabetes can eat sweets made from stevia sugar.
In which country, is it being used most? In which other countries, has stevia sugar been permitted so far?
Japan has already approved the use of stevia. Currently, stevia is occupying almost half, that is, 45 percent of the Japanese market. The permission in Japan was a turning point for Stevia. It could happen because the Japanese are very aware and sincere for their health.
When Lucknow’s Partha Sarawagi sat for a coffee at a restaurant in Tokyo, he never imagined that there could be an option for sugar. Being diabetic, Partha requested the waiter for sugar free. What surprised him was when waiter, in his broken English, could tell him that they had another sugar which is completely safe for diabetic people. This was his first visit to Japan and this was a unique experience. He could not believe when restaurant manager told him that they have this zero calorie sugar and it’s called ‘STEVIA’. It is indeed going to be a new experience for many Indians.
Similarly, The US Food and Drug Administration or FDA which is usually very strict about the quality and health-related products, also found it beneficial for health. It has also approved stevia but with some conditions. Stevia has now got approvals for use in 12 countries.
Sugar is produced in 120 countries of the world. Out of which 70 percent is produced from sugarcane and 30 percent is produced from beetroot. As cane sugar has high carbohydrate content, it is harmful for diabetic people. Dieticians, also, do not advise it for people who are undergoing weight control programme. It is for these reasons that stevia is becoming popular choice in the countries where it has been approved.
1. 100 percent safe for diabetes and obesity. Already tested and being used in 12 countries.
2. Zero Calorie
3. 200 – 350 times sweeter than sugar. Two drops of stevia is equivalent to two table spoons of sugar. A cup of tea or coffee for stevia will need just two drops of stevia.
4. According to experts, stevia does not go in blood during digestion while sugar gets added to blood during digestion. So, it makes it a healthy and safe option for diabetic people and adds sweetness to their lives.
How do you see its potential in India?
India has already given permission for its trial in 2015. Plantation has already started in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh at a large scale. Commercial production of stevia has not been yet approved. The way stevia is becoming popular in the world, we expect that people in India will also start using it in next 2-3 years.
How does stevia plant look? How is stevia crop grown?
Stevia’s plant is quite similar to Basil (Tulsi) plant and its leaves taste sweet. The sugar produced from it is 100 percent organic and it has zero percent calorie. Once it is planted, it can be harvested 6 times. It is ready for harvest in 4.5 months time, means 2 crops in 9 months. While the sugar cane takes 9-12 months for one crop. Stevia plant also does not require large area. It is sufficient for the small plant. Sugar is extracted from the dried leaves of stevia.
How will Stevia affect the sugar industry in India?
Surely, stevia will hit the sugar industry as it has potential to replace sugar. Main reason is that sugar industry is the main income source of sugarcane farmers. If stevia replaces sugar, these farmers may have to alter their existing cropping pattern. Future investments in sugar industry will be badly affected. Procurement prices of sugarcane will drop. Stevia cannot be produced in existing sugar mills, so new plants will have to be established. So, this is a big threat to sugar industry. But Indian Sugar Companies are still not thinking about this.
Is any company using stevia? What are the chances for its success in India?
Pepsi has already testing it and selling stevia contained 7 Up in some areas. Depending on the results, many other food and beverages company can start using it in their products. In many countries, stevia is sold in retail and is quite popular. Therefore, chances for its success are very good in India. Once it is introduced in the market, it will hardly take any time to become popular here.
India has nearly 70 million diabetic people. According to the World Health Organization, India will have 80 million diabetic people by 2030. Therefore, it is important to test and develop new foods that can be prescribed to diabetic people. Stevia can be a revolutionary step. Government should not only accelerate the testing of stevia but also explore alternative income source for sugarcane farmers.