Kundapur, Aug 14: “Agarwood plantations is a profitable crop that can be grown without depending on workers. It can be grown as a main crop or in between other crops. Agarwood has huge demand in the international market and fetches more value than sandalwood,” said Vanadurgi Agarwood company’s technical advisor Dr V Bhaskar.
He was speaking during a meeting of Agarwood planters and a workshop on Agarwood, held at Kundapur Hangalur’s Anantapadmanabha Hall on August 13, 2013 under the joint aegis of the Vanadurgi Agarwood India and Bharatiya Kisan Sangha, Kundapur.
The Agarwood can be easily grown in between the crops of coffee, Betelnut, coconut, cardamom etc. as a mixed crop in malnad or aremalnad regions. Many farmers are interested in the crop and have already started growing it, he said.
The president of Bharatiya Kisan Sangha, B V Poojary inaugurated the programme. Vanadurgi agarwood industries chairman Surendrakumar Hegde, explained the importance of agarwood crop and said that with the participation of planters, the crop of agarwood has come out as a strong force in agriculture and business spheres.
Vanadurgi agarwood company’s technical advisor Srinivas, president of Kundapur land developmentbank and planter S Dinakar Shetty, agar planter Ramachandra Navada and organic agriculturist Ramachandra Alse were present.
Agarwood was introduced to South India for the very first time by Vanadurgi and a company, The Vanadurgi Agarwood India Ltd., was formed with its shares distributed amongst planters, promoters and The Vanadurgi Flavours and Extracts (P) Ltd. The company is exclusively involved in the development of plantation, processing and marketing of agarwood.
The company has entered into a buy-back agreement with farmers to provide good seedlings, technical guidelines, artificial inoculation, setting up of processing units and the purchase of their inventories for the best price ever. The company has an ongoing target of cultivating 1.5 million plants, out of which 0.5 million saplings have already been planted.
Farmers prefer agar to sandalwood
A crop that has no equals in the field of natural incense, agarwood is gaining more popularity than sandalwood. In fact, many farmers now prefer agarwood to sandalwood as it promises returns higher than sandalwood and is quite safe as it cannot be easily poached. According to Murthy who has about 30 sandalwood trees in his plantation, keeping a watch on them is a major problem.
“Very often, we have poachers coming in the dead of night to cut branches off sandalwood trees to check if they are mature. If they find them ideal to be sold in the market, they just fell the trees and transport them. However, agarwood is quite safe as it is difficult for poachers to extract it from the tree. Moreover, the absence of an open market for agar dissuades poachers,” he says.
A thought seconded by Vijay Angadi, State Environment Award winner and honorary director, Punyabhoomi, Hassan, too. “Agarwood is a wonderful tree. It is common knowledge as to what happens to sandalwood saplings by the time they grow, mature and prove to be profitable to planters.
Moreover, it takes nearly 25-30 years for sandalwood to fetch us returns. In such a scenario, agarwood has come as a welcome crop to Malnad region as it takes only 8-15 years to mature and fetch us good returns,” he says.
Sensing the huge market potential of agarwood, The Vanadurgi Agarwood India Ltd., based in Sringeri, is helping out planters in Malnad to cultivate the crop by providing them with seedlings, technical know-how and the necessary support till the produce is harvested, processed and marketed. Available in a variety of forms – chips, flakes, powder, pieces, timber, logs, oil – agarwood is priced according to the density of wood and resin, their purity, aroma, colour, shape and size.
While superior grade agarwood costs over Rs 30,000 per kg, agar oil costs over Rs 10 lakh per kg in the retail market.
Sadly, this crop is on the verge of extinction and in an effort to promote its cultivation, the Central Government, through its Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), provides 75 per cent subsidy for agar cultivation.
The planters of Malnad have welcomed this wonder crop into their estates with open arms in the fond hope of reaping rich profits. Going by the demand it is enjoying right now in both Indian and international markets, the day is not far when their hopes are realised, shall we say?