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Legacy of Marayoor sandalwood helps fill up Kerala coffers

The latest e-auction conducted by the department last week fetched a whopping Rs 28.11 crore to the exchequer with around 34 tonnes of sandalwood logs going under the hammer.

Published: 03rd February 2018 10:16 PM  |   Last Updated: 04th February 2018 12:23 PM   |  A+A-

KOCHI: The fame of sandalwood from Marayoor — the Mecca of sandalwood in Kerala — has brought cheers to the state exchequer, with the e-auction conducted by the forest department fetching record revenue. The latest e-auction conducted by the department last week fetched a whopping Rs 28.11 crore to the exchequer with around 34 tonnes of sandalwood logs going under the hammer.

With top quality wood and high oil content (also known as liquid gold), the Marayoor sandalwood is of high demand in the cosmetic and perfume industries in the international markets. The sandalwood at Marayoor in Idukki district, a place known for its natural sandalwood forests, has been fetching an average of Rs 1.25 crore per tonne to the exchequer, whereas the same quality of sandalwood placed for bidding by the Karnataka government fetches only around `60 lakh. While the class 10 variety, ‘Jaipokal’, which is of high demand in the industry, is being sold at `10,500-`11,000 per kg in Kerala, the same variety is sold at only `5,500-`6,000 per kg in Karnataka. 

The department has set a target to collect `40 crore through the sale of sandalwood in a year. While the latest bidding held this fiscal bagged `28.11 crore, the first auction held in July 2017 fetched around `12.5 crore to the state, including tax, said Job J Neriamparambil, Marayoor Forest Range Officer. “We have already achieved the target for this fiscal and five more tonnes of sandalwood will be given to the Guruvayur Devaswom as per a contract, which will bring around Rs 12 crore more to the state coffers,” he said. 

In 2016-17, the department collected a total of `46 crore through the sale of Marayoor sandalwood. The department holds two auctions every year. But in 2016, three auctions were held with a view of tapping the growing market. However, it didn’t work out as planned since only 3,853 kg of the 38 tonnes of sandalwood placed for auction were sold out, fetching a meagre Rs 3.87 crore. 

The Institute of Wood Science and Technology (IWST) has branded the Marayoor sandalwood as the best quality sandalwood available in the country citing its high oil content and this is one of the main reasons for its growing demand in the cosmetic and perfume industries, said the officers. The sandalwood from Mysuru is considered second in quality. “Our clientele includes Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Ltd that makes the renowned ‘Mysore Sandal Soap’, handicraft manufacturers in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, leading ayurveda companies and various temple committees,” said Afsal Ahammed, Divisional Forest Officer, Marayoor. 

There has been a visible decline in the illegal smuggling of sandalwood from the Maryoor forest, which, in fact, has raised the market from Kerala. Only nine cases were registered in Maryoor in connection with sandalwood smuggling in 2016 and only one case was registered in 2017. Though illegal felling is still prevalent in private lands, it has reduced significantly over the years following the successful intervention of the forest and police officers, said forest department officers.  

Sandalwood diaries
In India, the total extent 
of sandalwood distribution is around 9,000 sq km, 
of which 8,200 sq km is in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu
Kerala has only 15 sq km of sandalwood forests, mainly in the Marayoor Range and, to a limited extent, in the Arienkavu Range
The average price of Marayur sandalwood is J1.25 crore per tonne, whereas it is around D60 lakh in Karnataka 

Sandalwood distribution  in various states (area in sq km) 
Karnataka: 5,245
Tamil Nadu : 3,040
Andhra Pradesh: 200
Maharashtra: 33
Madhya Pradesh: 33
Odisha: 25
Kerala: 15



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