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World’s biggest sandalwood auction today (jan.)


Business Line, Delhi, Wednesday 5th February 2014

What was the legendary sandalwood poacher Veerappan’s biggest regret? That he could not lay his hands on a log of the famed Marayoor sandalwood!

That’s a joke Kerala Forest officials would like to tell – to show how well they protected the Marayoor sandalwood forest while the bandit devastated sandalwood groves in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Despite the threats from Veerappan’s gang and other sundry poachers, some 8,500 acres of natural sandalwood forest have survived in the Marayoor- Kanthalloor belt in the Marayoor Sandal Reserve Forest in the Western Ghats in Kerala’s Idukki district.

“Marayoor’s is said to be the largest natural sandalwood forest of the species Santalum album in a rain-shadow region,” says P Dhanesh Kumar, divisional forest officer of south Wayanad, who had been the range officer of the Marayoor forest a few years ago. While Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, tired of the high cost of protecting the sandalwood forests, cut and warehoused the trees, Kerala nurtured the trees in Marayoor. Some 150 watchers and the Vana Samrakshana Samitis (voluntary forest protection forums) take care of the nearly 60,000 trees from poachers, fire and natural calamities.

“We do not chop sandal trees, we only collect those that are fallen dead or are felled by winds,” MG Vinod Kumar, range officer of Marayoor, told Business Line. Every year, several tonnes of such wood are collected, stored at the Government sandalwood depot and auctioned off.

The Marayoor Sandalwood Auction is said to be the world’s largest sandalwood sale at an auction. On February 5, more than 56 tonnes of sandalwood will go under the hammer. A large number of buyers – temples, sandalwood oil factories, ayurvedic drug makers and handicrafts manufacturers – will bid for the precious, fragrant and ‘divine’ wood at Marayoor on the Munnar-Udumalpet road.

Vinod Kumar recalled that at last year’s auction 40 tonnes were sold fetching ₹33 crore to the government coffers. The average price was around ₹6,000 a kg. This year, the price is likely to increase to about ₹7,000. This year, for the first time, a large quantity of sap wood would also be auctioned.

If all the wood put up for auction is sold, it would be the largest-ever turnover. Among those taking part in the auction are the Guruvayur and Sabarimala temple authorities.

The sandal paste, considered divine, is a sought-after “prasadam” at these temples.