Biggest consumer of agar oil is the oil-rich country of South East Asia. Hojai in Assam is the hub of agar oil distillation.
Guwahati: In what is going to give a boost to the perfume industry in Assam, the state government has removed restriction on agar tree cultivation on non-forest land and its sale, paving the way for a second big revolution in the agro-based economy. The tea industry largely dominated by MNCs had opened up its door to local small tea growers more than two decades ago and now they account for 49 per cent of the tea production in Assam.
The state government has allowed plantation and sale of agar on up to five hectares of land. Agar oil is highly valued and universally prized as “Otto of Roses”. Agar (Aquilaria Agallocha Roxb) trees are found in Sivasagar, Sadia, Nagaon, Darrang, Goalpara and Cachar in Assam and Garo Hill district of Meghalaya and also in the forest of Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said, “In a landmark decision, the Cabinet approved growing and cutting of agar and chandan trees on non-forest land. This will promote cultivation of agar and chandan in the state. The Cabinet also approved setting up of an international trade centre for agar in Golaghat.”
The top industrialists in this trade said, “This will be the second biggest revolution in Assam after the small tea growers revolution and a new economy will emerge in Upper Assam.”
The All Sanchi (agarwood) Growers’ Association of Assam (ASGAA) has been demanding basic facilities to develop agarwood cultivation in the state. The association has also been pleading to exempt agarwood industries from purview of Assam Wood Based Industries (Establishment and Regulation) Rule 2000 and bring them under the category of secondary wood-based industries.
Forest officials pointed out, “As agrawood has been classified as wood-based industry, cutting of the tree was not allowed and registration was needed for exporting. The illegal agar trade in the state stood at `10,000 crore.”
The biggest consumer of agar oil is the oil-rich country of South East Asia. Hojai in Assam is the hub of agar oil distillation. More than two lakh people are directly or indirectly engaged in this sector. There are more than 2000 functional distillation units of agar in Hojai.
The export of agarwood, however, was prohibited in 1991. This affected lakhs of people associated with the extraction of oil and other agarwood-based products. Imported agarwood, on the other hand, can be re-exported as value-added herbal formulations; this, too, only if the herbal products have been manufactured from the imported raw material.
Mr Sirajuddin Ajmal, who was the MP of Barpeta and the director of the Ajmal Group biggest dealer of agar oil world over, said that the restrictions on agar had forced the company to diversify. They are very happy that the government is taking a serious interest in removing the restrictions.
The Centre, which has also decided to introduce a new policy for Assam’s agarwood industry, had recently sought a report on the sector from the state government and cultivators. In 2004, the government had come out with a policy, which said agarwood was an integral part of the cultural heritage of the state and that it would take measures to create a conducive atmosphere for its cultivation and utilization.