Return of scented wood
Private cultivation of sandalwood is catching up in India, but it will be a long wait for farmers to reap benefits and for India to regain its supremacy in the global sandalwood trade
Fago, farmer K C Dinesh IVE YEARS planted 2,500 sandalwood saplings on four hectares (ha) of his land in Karnataka’s Chitradurga district.In 10 years, he expects to earn 12-`15 crore ` from his crop.“Farmers from the entire district are visiting my farm. Everybody wants to plant sandalwood as it is highly profitable and needs least maintenance,”he says.
Although India has long been known for its sandalwood ( Santalum album), it is only in the past decade that farmers have shown interest in growing the plant in their backyard. Until 2000, sandalwood was largely confined to the forests of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and plantations of these state governments.There was no cultivation on private agricultural land in the rest of the country. But a policy change in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in 2001 and 2002 respectively allowed people to grow sandalwood.This inspired other states.
In the past four years, 2,800 ha of agricultural land came under sandalwood cultivation in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand, apart from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.The figure is rising by approximately 600 ha per year, according to an estimate by the Institute of Wood Science and Technology (iwst), Bengaluru, a pioneering institute for sandalwood research. This will help revive the country’s lost glory in the sandalwood trade.
From royal tree to people's tree
India was once a world leader in sandalwood production. In the 1960s, it produced