A project worth Tk 68 crore has been undertaken by the government to increase the production of high-quality agarwood and generate more revenue through its export.
The project titled “Innovation of Agar Resin Collection Technology at High Quality in Whole Trees” was initiated by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, recognising agarwood and its essential oil as being some of the most expensive raw materials in the world.
On June 22, 2021, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved the project, which would be implemented by the Bangladesh Forest Research Institute (BFRI).
Based on the BFRI, the international market for agarwood is presently worth approximately $12 billion. Only 35 per cent of the demand can be met. And the majority of it comes from the natural forests.
Nearly Tk 275 crore-worth of agarwood was exported by Bangladesh in the 2018-19 fiscal year and of Tk 169 crore in the following year.
Agarwood comes from the Aquilaria malaccensis tree. A fungal infection grows inside called Phialophora parasitica if the tree suffers external damage. This prompts the tree to produce an aromatic resin, which coagulates over time to create agarwood.
Since the frequency of natural infections is extremely low, the artificial practice for triggering the resin secretion is hammering iron nails into the tree.
An official of the BFRI’s Department of Forest and Biomaterials Science, Dr Mohamad Jakir Hossain stated that agarwood was produced both artificially and naturally in Bangladesh.
He stated that a meagre 5 to 10 per cent of a tree’s volume materialised in the form of resin in the current iron nail method. He added that the agarwood produced using iron nails was not of good quality.
The president of the Bangladesh Agar and Perfume Manufacturers and Importers Association, Ansarul Haque has labelled the project to be a futile effort.
But, he stated, if the proposed methods turned out to beneficial for producing agarwood, then they would adopt it.
“Our overarching aim is to reach an annual export revenue of $1,000 crore by 2025 through this project,” said Dr Jakir Hossain.
Agarwood is being exported by Bangladesh primarily to Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Qatar, Riyadh, Bahrain, China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
Agarwood is also produced in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and some other countries.
Based on the information of BFRI, there are presently nearly 6 crore Aquilaria trees in Bangladesh.
At present, private forestries of Aquilaria trees are managed in Sylhet, Chattogram, Chattogram Hill Tracts, Comilla, greater Mymensingh and Gazipur.
The project encompasses areas including Chattogram, Moulvibazar, Sylhet, Khagrachhari, Rangamati and Mymensingh.
Its implementation period is estimated to be five years spanning from January 2021 to December 2025.
In excess of 300 agarwood oil refineries are available in various regions of the nation. This industry has directly or indirectly created employment opportunities for nearly 20,000 people.
BFRI Director Dr Masudur Rahman said if the project was implemented properly, agarwood production would increase severalfold.