NEW DELHI: Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb, who is on a three-day visit to the national capital to hold talks with Centre over fortifying Act East plans, on Saturday said the Modi government has in-principle agreed to initiate perfume and incense (agar) trade for the state with the Middle East three decades after it was banned, in a big win to boost employment in his state.
The CM said that the count for Thymelaecea, a resinous tree and commonly known as agar, now stands at 50 lakh in the state. The export of Agarwood has been prohibited since 1991, when the export of all wood products (including log, timber, chip, powder, flake, dust etc) of all species was banned through the EXIM Policy in force at that time.
Deb’s talks with PM Narendra Modi come barely months after his government in Tripura launched Agarwood 2021 policy.
While taking a swipe at CPI-led predecessor, he said the trade, if allowed, would generate a business of Rs 2,000 crore in next two years.
“Sadly, the Communist government never changed the forest policy in Tripura or never approached the Centre to seek trade for Agar. So when I met the PM this week, I proposed him to lift the restriction. I also sought to expand the limit for Agar trade which stands at 25,000 MT overall for the country. This will allow Tripura farmers to send incense and perfume varieties to the Middle East via Chittagong,” Deb said.
Agartala, the state capital of Tripura is believed to have origin of its name from Agarwood.
The tree is distributed in South and South East Asia from the foothills of the Himalayas to the rainforests of Papua New Guinea.
Three grades of oil are being extracted from the Agar namely Boya, Boha and Khara.
In the then EXIM Policy (2009-2014)
by the then Directorate General of Foreign Trade import of Agarwood has been restricted and has been since subjected to the provisions of Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
According to new Agarwood Policy 2021, Agar has not gained much importance like Rubber and Bamboo during the previous government due to lack of quality Agarwood from existing plantation, lack of inoculation to the extent required for economic revolution, absence of recognized and formal trade mechanism, illegal distillation leading to poor quality extraction of Agar oil.
Besides, lack of quality control mechanism and also due to lack of encouragement of Agar growers for registration with forest department was also among other reasons for poor trade, the policy said.
Deb said that the new Agarwood policy has sought to encourage the research and development in the field of artificial inoculation for agarwood formation, sustainable harvesting and improvement in the quantity and quality of products.
The Deb government also began resource mapping and augmentation to expand Agar plantation with five new approaches.
This includes Agar Plantation as fencing of agro-forestry plantation on private lands; Plantation on tea garden and small tea grower’s land; Artificial inoculation of Agar trees; Marketing tie up with Amazon, Flipkart and international exhibitions and distribution of Agarwood saplings at concessional rates (up to 100 saplings per family) to the small growers who usually grow Agarwood in their homestead gardens
Agar’s production is expensive and new areas are being identified to grow this tree.
“It is only when Aquilaria trees are bruised by external factors such as physical injury, chemical treatment insect attack or bacterial fungal infection, that Agarwood starts forming in the tree as defense mechanism. The resin is produced as an immune response to attack from fungi or injury by borer insect called Neurozerra conferta. In Tripura, it is noticed that Insect borers aids Agarwood formation more in north Tripura district naturally as compared to other areas of the state. This necessitates the policy prescription to plant tree across the state and on highways so that insects responsible for agar wood formation can propagate naturally throughout the state” the 2021 policy states.