The team in Assam with Sadaharitha Plantations Chairman Sathis Nawarathne (seated in the centre) and (seated from left) Regional Manager Menaka Dharmapriya, Regional Manager Rukman Rathnayake, Director Sales and Marketing Jayampathy Mirando, Forestry Consultant Dr. Upul Subasinghe, AGM Training and Development Niroshan Manawadu and Regional Manager Nihal Thissera
A delegation from Sadaharitha Plantations Ltd, including the company’s Chairman Sathis Nawarathne, toured Assam, in the south of the eastern Himalayas recently, to get a hands-on experience of growing and marketing agarwood, which is considered to be the world’s most sustainable investment in commercial forestry.
Assam is known to be India’s agarwood capital and sharing the best practices in pricing, training labour and exploring marketing opportunities with the Indian experts would help the team from Sadaharitha to benefit from the knowledge they gain. Assam is the gateway to north-eastern India and shares borders with Bhutan and Bangladesh.
Speaking of the delegation’s tour to Assam, Sathis Nawarathne said, “We benefited immensely from the tour and will be able to provide sound investment opportunities to our clients by exchanging best practices with the agarwood growers in Assam and in turn we were able to share our own expertise for their benefit.”
Among the members of the Sri Lankan delegation was University of Sri Jayewardenepura Forestry and Environmental Science Department Senior Lecturer and Sadaharitha Plantations Forestry Consultant Dr. Upul Subasinghe. His paper titled, ‘Gyrinops Walla: Recently discovered agarwood producing tree in Sri Lanka’, was published recently in the journal of All Sanchi (Agar) Growers’ Association of India and the publication focused on the issue that frequent smuggling and poaching made the species vulnerable to extinction.
In the paper he states, “Lack of knowledge of poachers about the agarwood resin formation and its existence, directed to cut the trees of all sizes without any scientific intervention and therefore it became a massacre causing a severe threat to the existence of this species.
International demand for agarwood is increasing and over the past decade it has resulted in over exploitation. Poaching increases tree mortality, reduces the growth rate of pre-adults and adults and decreases the percentage of adults that reproduce. Loss of lowland forest habitats also threatens populations of these species.”
Low yield from plant material, typical and labour-intensive process of extraction are some key reasons behind the high cost of agarwood oil.
Agarwood undoubtedly is a billion dollar industry, in which the ever increasing price is attributed to the constantly growing demand in larger markets such as Middle-East, China, the USA and Europe in various forms such as graded chips, powder, oil and as finished products, such as perfumes, incense and medicine and even as jewellery because of the belief that it brings wealth and good luck.
Agarwood is listed in the Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) and cannot be traded internationally without a permit to ensure the survival of the species. The wonder tree is regarded as a gift of nature since the tree does not contain any perfumery oil glands. The agar oil is formed when infected with microbes when the tree is bored and infested by the trunk borer.
Sadaharitha Plantations has been in the forefront of agarwood cultivation in Sri Lanka, offering expertise as well as value-added commercial forestry investments to clients, contributing significantly to the conservation of our planet by protecting the environment.