Fiftytwo tonnes of sandalwood collected from the Marayoor sandalwood forest of the Kerala Forest Department were sold for a record INR 40 crore at the auction held at Marayoor late last week.
World’s largest auction
The Marayoor auction is said to be the world’s largest sandalwood auction and the auction is usually held twice a year. “This year, 14 different classes of sandalwood, including roots, were on auction,” R Shivaprasad, Divisional Forest Officer in charge of the Marayoor sandalwood plantation, told BusinessLine. “The prices this time were around 20 per cent more than last time.”
The Marayoor sandalwood commands high reputation and high prices and is used mainly as ‘prasadam’ in Kerala temples, as a key ingredient in sandal-based perfumes and also for soap-making. Guruvayur and Sabarimala temple authorities are regular bidders at the Marayoor auctions. The entire process of auctioning is now carried out online.
Only the fallen ones
The Marayoor forest, located on the Munnar-Udumalpet road , is the largest natural sandalwood forest of species santalum album in a rain-shadow region in the world. The government does not allow cutting down of sandalwood trees in the forest. Only those trees which are fallen are sold off. The fallen wood is collected and stored at the government sandalwood depot. There are around 60,000 sandal trees in Marayoor.
Officials point out that the cost of maintaining the Marayoor sandalwood forest is high because of the threat from smugglers and poachers. The increasing global price of sandalwood has encouraged poachers to take extreme risks to steal the wood. As a result, the Forest Department employs an army of watchers and other security staff to guard over the forest.
Voluntary forest protection forums which have local people’s support have an important role in keeping the forest intact. On Saturday, police arrested three persons for smuggling sandalwood weighing around 50 kg.