UPDATED: NOVEMBER 24, 2010
The Forest Department is reaching out to farmers and private cultivators to take up sandalwood cultivation in a bid to dispel the notion that the aromatic tree is a State monopoly.
Though the law on sandalwood cultivation was liberalised a few years ago, the public perception about the “State monopoly over the royal tree” continues to discourage individuals from growing it.
B.P. Ravi, Conservator of Forests, Mysore, told The Hindu that the law pertaining to sandalwood had been amended more than two years ago, but the notion of a “State prerogative” with regard to its cultivation remains strongly rooted.
Hence, the department conducted a workshop in Mysore on Sunday, which was attended by more than 2,500 farmers from Mysore, Mandya, Chamarajanagar and surrounding regions. More such workshops and seminars are in the offing.
Historically, the Mysore region has been renowned for sandalwood. Its aromatic oil was exported to the perfume industry throughout the world resulting in a steep increase in its price.
Mr. Ravi pointed out that sandalwood fetched anywhere between Rs. 4,400 and Rs. 6,000 a kg depending on its quality. As the State was the sole owner of sandalwood trees till two years ago and there was a bar on its cultivation by individuals, the supply of sandalwood had depleted. However, Mr. Ravi pointed out that not many farmers seem to have taken up sandalwood farming even after liberalisation of the law. He said that the Forest Department was now in the process of conducting a survey to ascertain the number of sandalwood farms at the taluk level and prepare a database.
But a cross-section of farmers who attended the recent workshop in the city were hesitant as they feared that the onus of providing security to the sandalwood trees, which is highly susceptible to theft in view of the lucrative price it commands in the market, lay with the individuals.
Mr. Ravi, however, pointed out that the law has been amended with regard to theft of sandalwood and the owner would not be liable for prosecution. However, a case would be registered as in any other scenario, he added.
Vivek Cariappa, an organic farmer, argued that sandalwood had a long gestation period and not many farmers could afford to cultivate it exclusively. Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Cariappa said that sandalwood had a gestation period ranging between eight and 10 years and the ideal time for harvesting it for commercial use was reckoned to be after 14 years of growth. Very few farmers had the kind of money to invest and the time to wait, he said.
Not withstanding the prevailing rate for sandalwood in the market, there was also a strong perception that the Government rates did not reflect the actual market rates. Hence, there has been a tendency to sell the sandalwood in the black market, where it fetches almost double the rate. Also, government agencies tend to purchase only dry wood, whereas in the black market even wet wood, which adds to the weight, was in demand.
Sources in the Forest Department pointed out that though farmers were being encouraged to cultivate sandalwood, there was a scarcity of saplings. Some officials said that the scarcity could be overcome through plant tissue culture.
- More than 2,500 farmers from Mysore, Mandya and Chamarajanagar attend workshop
- ‘Farmers are not growing sandalwood even after liberalisation of the law'