Tripura attempts to boost economy with Agar plantation

Agartala: The agar tree or Aquilaria malaccensis, a major source of medicine and perfume, may be a critically endangered species on the IUCN list, but it grows abundantly in Tripura, giving the State a glorious opportunity to grow the plant commercially and boost the economy, a senior forestry official said.

The capital Agartala was named after the evergreen tree, he noted.

“Adaptation of intercropping could make Agar a preferred cash crop, given the low input for management and growth,” said KS Sethi, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF).

Officials said the Tripura government, under its agarwood policy launched last year, aims to double plantations by 2025.

The agar trade is expected to generate about Rs 2,000 crore per year for the state, they said.

The state government has applied for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) certification for the export of agarwood and other extracted products, said Seti.

“We are in contact with the CITES authorities for the necessary authorizations and certifications, after which we will be able to export agarwood,” he said.

Notably, Tripura aims to export 75,000 kg of agar chips and 1,500 kg of agar oil in the current fiscal year, according to the policy.

“The State Forest Department is taking initiatives to set up a dedicated agar market in North Tripura district and open another Agar International Trade and Research Center (AITRC) in Agartala” , said the PCCF.

The center will also facilitate the linking of Agar markets, he pointed out, adding that funds have been allocated in the last state budget for the establishment of the research center.

PL Agarwal, Director of the Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) Center of Excellence, which deals with the Agar project in the state, said North Tripura has the highest concentration of Agar trees

“So far, 1.13 crore Agar trees have been counted in North Tripura district. During our census, it was found that about 56 lakhs of trees have matured only recently. In the past two years, the state government has made efforts to ensure the proliferation of Agar trees,” Agarwal said.

Last year, about 10 lakh saplings were planted across the state, he said.

As many as 20 lakh Agar nurseries are expected to be established in the next planting season (April to October), he pointed out.

Sethi and Agarwal recently visited Kadamtala in northern Tripura, where the dedicated Agar market with around 20 stalls will soon be set up.

“Only producers with business licenses will be allowed to sell agar products including oil in the market,” Agarwal added.

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