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| Last Updated:17/03/2020

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State mulls sandalwood cultivation

 Keen to explore the possibility of sandalwood cultivation in lower parts of Himachal, the state government is seeking inputs from Karnataka and the Centre on the policy for protection and technical know-how to encourage growers to take to its commercial cultivation.

With the lower parts of Himachal, including areas in Bilaspur and Jwalamukhi in Kangra, having sandalwood trees, the state Forest Department is keen on exploring the possibility of its commercial cultivation.

Principal Chief Conservator RK Gupta said: “It is only after studying the whole economics and agro-climatic conditions required for chandan cultivation that we can ask farmers to take to its cultivation.”

He said besides seeking all relevant information from Karnataka, officers would be sent there to study all aspects concerning sandalwood cultivation.

With reports of illicit felling of sandalwood in Jwalamukhi coming to light, the matter was raised with the government. “We have undertaken fencing of chandan plantation on the forestland so that there can be no illicit felling,” he said, adding that the protection policy for sandalwood was being sought from the Government of India.

Treading a cautious approach before motivating farmers, the department is also examining the suitability of the species which can be planted in lower parts of Himachal.

Sandalwood plants have a very slow growth and it is only after 15-20 years that the returns can be expected.

Gupta said the species which give essential oil would have to be identified so that farmers got good returns. He said one could not take risk till the economics of it were worked out properly.

A preliminary survey and investigation indicates that around 300 sandalwood trees can be grown on an acre which can fetch up to Rs 10 crore after 15 to 20 years, as its international market value is Rs 10,000 per kg.

It was being felt that if sandalwood cultivation became successful, it would transform the socio-economic status of those living in lower areas.

There was a proposal to provide sandalwood saplings free of cost to growers after procuring these from South India as well. Also farmers were to be imparted the knowhow about sandalwood cultivation.