Sandalwood losing its famed fragrance?

Special Correspondent

Rs. 35-crore worth stock lies idle in Shimoga godown losing weight and market value

Stock is gathering dust for the last 15 years

A private firm bought stock in 1993 the last time

SHIMOGA: A large stock of sandalwood worth crores of rupees is gathering dust and losing its market value. There are three godowns, one each in Shimoga, Dharwad and Mysore, where the sandalwood is stored.

The stock at the Shimoga godown, which is estimated at Rs. 35 crore, is losing its value gradually.

What has made it difficult for the staff of the Forest Department is that they have to ensure protection of sandalwood against theft or fire accidents in the absence of proper weapons and manpower for it.

There have been several incidents wherein the security personnel have foiled attempts to steal the precious wood.

On many occasions, they have been forced to open air in the air to quell gangs when they tried to trespass into the godown.

Though complaints have been made by the lower staff over thefts or attempts to tamper with the sandalwood stock, they are not reportedly taken seriously by the authorities concerned.

As such, complaints lodged with regard to such instances are few.

A private firm in north India purchased 120 tonnes of sandalwood through auction from this godown for export by offering more than three times the market price in 1993.

What must have prompted the Delhi-based firm to purchase sandalwood offering such a high price was that the Union Government had included it in the list of export items which pushed up its demand in the international market. But by the time the auction process was over, the demand for sandalwood in the international market crashed suddenly following the removal of sandalwood from the list of export items.

Court intervention

The firm which has suffered a huge loss has reportedly sought a court’s intervention for the settlement of loss.

Now the stock in the godown is gathering dust since 15 years and the loss incurred on account of it is heavy while its weight has come down by six tonnes on account of depreciation.

Besides, the Government has not opted for insurance cover for the stock despite a suggestion made by the Forest Department.

The issue came to the light at a meeting here on December 17 to review the progress achieved by the Forest Department under the chairmanship of Additional Principal Conservator of Forests and In-charge Officer of Shimoga Wildlife Division Sundar Naik.

Mr. Naik said that a high-level meeting would be convened in Bangalore soon to find out how the sandalwood stock could be disposed of.

There has been demand for sandalwood in the State particularly for carving of artefacts. The Government is unable to supply sandalwood adequately to various temples and other institutions.

Even the demand from “gudigars” (sandalwood carvers) for sandalwood is not being met fully and the denial of adequate supply of sandalwood has affected them adversely.

They are forced to opt for ordinary wood to pursue their profession.

It is said that the stock in the Shimoga godown could be disposed of by meeting the demand from various quarters and that would be a practical solution to the problem.

The government-owned sandal oil extraction unit in Shimoga had to be closed down for want of adequate supply of sandalwood.

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