Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sandalwood Farming Commercially Viable

Sandalwood Farming Commercially Viable
Chipped sandalwood before being graded for market. Pix: Mohd Haikal Isa
By Mohd Haikal Mohd IsaJOHOR BAHARU, July 25 (Bernama) -- Poachers in droves are chipping off dark-coloured resin or extracting oil from sandalwood trees in the country's forest reserves to make gaharu, an incense for religious rites and a raw material for perfume.The lack of enforcement has enabled poachers to encroach the forests of Kelantan, Pahang, Johor and Sarawak for the pricey resin. Sandalwood trees are also found in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, India and Indonesia.The sandalwood tree or scientifically known as Aquilaria Malaccensis is called Chen Xiang by the Chinese, Jin-Ko by the Japanese, and Oud or Oode among Arabs.The universal usage of gaharu dates back to the times of the pharoahs.RESEARCH"The resin fetches between RM5,000 and RM100,000 per kilogramme depending on its grade while the price of its oil is 10 times more," said Humara Enterprise Sdn Bhd local technical director Syed Abdul Jalil Shah.Humara Enterprise is teaming up with Konsesi Utama (M) Sdn Bhd to supply sandalwood seeds for commercial farming of the trees.Syed Abdul Jalil himself is conducting research on sandalwood to find ways to prevent its depletion in the jungles.He said: "Sandalwood or 'agaru' in Sanskrit is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which means sandalwood in the jungles cannot be extracted and traded."However, according to an international observing body on plant and wildlife commerce, TRAFFIC, resin and oil from some 700 tonnes of sandalwood worth RM3.5 billion in the international market were extracted from the Malaysian and Indonesian forests in 2000 alone, he added.HIGH VALUESyed Abdul Jalil said Humara Enterprise believed that commercial farming would be one of the ways to protect the species from depleting.Malaysia has four out of eight types of sandalwood trees in the world, namely Karas, Candan Gajah, Candan Gunung and Cendana.A kilogramme of the Karas sandalwood is said to be valued between RM5,000 and RM60,000, Candan Gajah (RM180,000-RM200,000) and Candan Gunung (RM1 million) while a litre of sandalwood oil is valued 10 times more than its wood."The sandalwood tree can grow under almost any conditions in the tropical climate with minimal care and can reach 40 metres in height upon maturity while its branches can stretch out as long as 60cm," said Syed Abdul Jalil."However, the Candan Gunung species can only grow at the altitude of 1,500 feet above sea level, making it difficult to find and breed."COMMERCIALISATIONKonsesi Utama currently has about 1.2 million sandalwood saplings of between six and eight months and hundreds more plants aged six years and above at its 313-acre plantation in Pahang.It also has more than 3,000 principal sandalwood trees at its 33-acre nursery.Syed Abdul Jalil declined to reveal the locations of the plantation and nursery as they are highly valuable.However, he said Konsesi Utama and Humara Enterprise were ready to supply the saplings to companies keen to undertake such a farming project, and they would be provided with free upkeeping for two years.He claimed that so far, only Konsesi Utama and Humara Enterprise were scientifically and commercially planting sandalwood trees in the country.He said sandalwood also had other uses as the leaves could be processed into medicinal products, the twigs and dregs for making incense, and the wood for furniture."Sandalwood plantations can also be an agro-tourism attraction since sandalwood is known locally and internationally for its valuable uses," he said.-- BERNAMA


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