The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF)’s Sirajuddin Ajmal heaped praise on the state’s BJP government for showing an ‘interest’ in developing the agarwood-based perfume industry.
The oil extracted from the agar plant is a highly prized product which is used in the perfume industry. Hojai in Assam is one of the hubs of agarwood oil extraction, an industry that has transformed the Ajmal family’s traditional perfumery into a billion-dollar enterprise.
The export of agarwood, however, was prohibited in 1991. This affected lakhs of people associated with the extraction of oil and other agarwood-based products. Imported agarwood, on the other hand, can be re-exported as value-added herbal formulations; this, too, only if the herbal products have been manufactured from the imported raw material.
Sirajuddin, who is the MP of Barpeta and the director of the Ajmal Group, said the restrictions on agar had forced the company to diversify.
“We are very happy that the current government is taking a serious interest in removing the restrictions on agarwood. The Congress government could not do this despite 15 years in power. In fact, forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma was very responsive to our concerns,” Sirajuddin said here on Saturday.
The Centre, which has decided to introduce a new policy for Assam’s agarwood industry, had recently sought a report on the sector from the state government and cultivators. In 2004, the government had come out with a policy which said agarwood was an integral part of the cultural heritage of the state and that it would take measures to create a conducive atmosphere for its cultivation and utilization. This would be followed by more trade in agar oil by reviewing existing provisions.
The forests of the northeast are conducive to agar cultivation and the species is grown in all seven states of the region.
Agar expert Abdul Quavi said, according to a survey by the forest department, there are about one crore privately-grown agar plants in Assam. The cultivation is concentrated in Jorhat, Golaghat and Sivasagar districts of upper Assam.
“Now, majority of agar plants are grown on private land. The product has a high export value and the government should encourage export,” Sirajuddin added.