Relaxed norms trigger demand for sandalwood saplings

Relaxed norms trigger demand for sandalwood saplings

According to the Forest officials, as many as six lakh sandalwood saplings have been supplied this year, as compared to last year's two lakh.

Karnataka is set to reclaim the title of “Chandanavana” (sandalwood) going by the growing demand for sandalwood saplings. According to the officials in Forest department, as many as six lakh saplings have been supplied this year compared to last year’s two lakh.

Under “Hasiru Chandana” project, sandalwood saplings were planted on 700 hectares and the extent has increased to 1,100 hectares this year. This area is set to go up further given the rising demand for saplings.

According to a senior official, sandalwood saplings are in more demand from farmers of Vijayapura, Bagalkot, Raichur, Mysuru districts and Malnad region. They are keen on growing the tree despite water scarcity - using drip irrigation or borewell water.

Sandalwood cultivation has picked up the state following the relaxation of rules on growing and axing sandalwood trees.

“Earlier, it was a State tree and rules were stringent. Now, the Forest Department, Karnataka State Handicrafts Development Corporation Limited and Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Limited have permission to axe the tree and pay 90% of the auction sale proceeds to the farmer and keep 10% as transaction charges. Farmers have realised the benefit of this offer and are increasingly taking to sandalwood cultivation,” the official explained.

Good quality sandalwood is now being sold at Rs 27,000 per kilo, compared to Rs 16,000 a kilo last year. The demand for sandalwood has increased from cosmetic, ayurvedic, herbal, pharmaceutical companies and also handicraft makers.

The demand for sandalwood is also high because of the ease of growing. “All one needs to do is deploy watchmen to guard the trees. It has been proven that installing tree guards is costly and also draws attention from poachers.”

“The tree starts to get its value from the age of 15-30 years (when it matures). It does not need much care after a certain age. Also the saplings are being given by the department at merely Rs 3 each,” the official added.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Punati Sridhar said more saplings would be grown from next year to meed the demand and the stock for this year had already been exhausted.