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Last Updated:[20-05-2009 06:18:09 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

Rising Sandalwood Demand in China Triggers Illegal Trade



tradenews Lately, Malaysia and Indo-Nepal border have become illegal trade corridors for Indian sandalwood owing to increased demand from China. Director General of Malaysian Timber Industry Board, Dr Jalaluddin Harun said that seven shipments of sandalwood worth close to $6mn had been seized in the last five months. Similarly, the recent political instability in Nepal has been exploited by the smugglers to use Indo-Nepal border has a conduit for their illegal trade.

The officials in the Sasastra Seema Bal (SSB) that guards the Indo-Nepal border stated the seizures of red sandalwood had become a commonplace issue all along the porous Indo-Nepal border. According to sources, this year alone about 450 tons of red sandalwood has been seized as compared to previous year’s 1000 tons.

The sandalwood is procured largely felling trees illegally from the Mysore region about 150km away from Bangalore and brought to any of the Eastern states of India including Bihar and West Bengal. Later it reached the final destination, China through Tatopani on Arniko Highway in North Nepal, the largest Sino-Nepal trade point. Nepali traders from Tatopani claimed that Arniko Highway was completely taken over by smugglers as conventional trade routes were heavily guarded.

Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) the sandalwood tree is protected, and any trading of sandalwood domestically or otherwise requires the government of India authorization. Sandalwood mafia in connivance with some state department officials is helping the trade to flourish despite such a trade activity invites heavy fines and rigorous punishments as per Indian law.

In Malaysia, the modus operandi is to declare the shipment of sandalwood as galvanised iron. Harun said last month the Timber board had seized a container loaded with 269 sandalwood logs worth more than $1mn that was trying to hoodwink the authorities through similar method. It should be noted that exporting the same imported goods from Malaysia the containers do not pass through the Customs formalities once again.

Fragrant sandalwood is widely used in the manufacturing of incense sticks, perfumes and toilet soaps. On the other hand, show pieces, handicrafts and some musical instruments in China are made out of red sandalwood. It has been told that even red sandalwood goes into the making of butts of firearms in China due to its curving capacity and strength. All varieties of sandalwood are used in various medicinal applications and beauty treatments.

By Jose Roy




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