The Telegraph
Thursday , March 20 , 2014
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Youths tap agarwood market

Jorhat, March 19: A group of Jorhat youths are planning to start agarwood plantations and plant one lakh saplings to tap into the multicrore-rupee agarwood oil market.

The move comes in wake of the sustainable utilisation of agarwood policy adopted by the Centre from January thereby legalising the export of agarwood oil.

Export of the oil had been banned since 1991 owing to blackmarketeering of agarwood oil in the absence of a concrete trade policy and the indiscriminate felling of the trees making the species almost extinct.

The youths under the banner of Assam Sanchi Farmers and Traders Association have sought the Assam government’s help to ease regulations on felling of trees and other laws, which obstruct such activity.

Saidul Hussain, general secretary of the Upper Assam unit of the association, told The Telegraph that they had approached chief minister Tarun Gogoi yesterday and apprised him of their difficulties.

“We are unhappy that the xansi tree from which the costly agarwood oil is extracted is listed as endangered by the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna and the Union ministry of commerce. It is the only tree from the region included in the list.”

Hussain said they had sought a state policy, which would enable farmers and traders to tap easily into the export potential of agarwood oil, which is in great demand in West Asia.

The oil is used in the perfume industry and one of the products is attar.

He said the biggest obstacle was the acquisition of a certificate of origin from the forest department after which trees on homestead land or in plantations could be felled and sold.

“It takes more than three months for such a certificate to be issued with the farmer having to shell out money to bring the department and district administration personnel on joint verification to the cultivation site in order to get the document and the process is not incorruptible,” Hussain said.

“We have asked Gogoi to ease this rule so the gaonburah (village elder) and gaon panchayats can be the authorising agents or develop an easier route,” he added.

He hoped that the forest department would ask the Union ministry of environment and forests to involve all stakeholders while making the policy, which would take cognisance of their interests, so they do not face any hurdles while felling the trees.

Hussain said three distillation units would also be set up at Jorhat, Golaghat and Samaguri as a micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) under the Khadi and Village Industries Commission.

Rajib Kumar Borah, senior scientist at the Rain Forest Research Institute here, said agarwood oil was produced in aquilera malaccansis, one of the two varieties of agarwood, which grew in the region.

However, it was only in the Upper Assam districts of Golaghat, Jorhat, Sivasagar, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia up to Sadiya and in Lakhimpur districts, that the insect which bored into the tree was found and resulted in the fungal growth and the consequent production of oil.