Thursday, February 8, 2007
Terengganu ‘smells’ money But an unhealthy tree is invaluable as it produces a natural resin under attack by micro-organisms.It is this fragrant resin that is increasingly being seen as the next most important source of income for the state after petroleum.The state is sitting on a goldmine: In seven years’ time, it stands to earn more than RM500 million in revenue from a 47-hectare site at the Merchang forestry station holding 40,000 seedlings.At the current price of between RM8,000 and RM10,000 a kilogramme, the agarwood harvest easily beat the price of gold or a barrel of crude oil.With the seedlings planted a year ago being more than a metre high, the Forestry Department is looking at ways to maximise the production of resin per tree.Research teams have been sent to Vietnam to study inoculation techniques to help accelerate the process of infection.State Forestry director Na’aman Jaafar is excited at the prospects of tapping a new source of revenue for the state."This is a new source of wealth. Aquilaria malaccensis can be grown on idle land in smallholdings and needs little care. The reward comes seven to 10 years after planting." The station in Merchang will also double as a research and propagation centre to protect the Aquilaria malaccensis and another related species, Aquilaria hirta, from extinction.In the wild, Aquilaria malaccensis is been cut for its heartwood — the precious gaharu — which is a highly sought-after ingredient by the perfumery trade.It is also used medicinally as a remedy for nervous disorders such as neurosis, obsessive behaviour and exhaustion.Na’aman said agarwood had become a precious commodity because the Aquilaria malaccensis was becoming very rare due to illegal collection."Each of the Aquilaria malaccensis tree is more precious than gold," he added.In the wild, inexperienced collectors would cut down any Aquilaria species hoping to find the resins and this method gave no chance for the mature tree to propagate, thus endangering its existence in the rainforest."There simply isn’t enough time for the trees to propagate and its scarcity only points to stronger demand and higher prices."This project is not only meant to save the Aquilaria species from extinction but also to take advantage of its lucrative economic returns." Na’aman said the success of the project could lead to a major decision to remove all Acacia mangium trees, which is a foreign and invasive species, and replaced with the Aquilaria species.