Red sanders fetch uptil Rs 1 crore per ton in China

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    Red sanders fetch uptil Rs 1 crore per ton in China

    HYDERABAD: Spurred by an ever-increasing international demand which has led to skyrocketing prices the smuggling of red sanders from the Seshachalam forests has been growing by leaps and bounds. The smugglers, mostly from Tamil Nadu, had started indulging in the illegal trade by buying the wood as cheap as Rs 500 a kg from poor locals and selling it at 100 times the price at the next stage. But with bourgeoning demand, mainly from the far-east countries, red sanders smuggling became a booming business.

    According to Andhra Pradesh forest officials, about 25,000 tonnes of red sanders trees were cut down in the last two years causing heavy damage to the delicate ecological balance in the Seshachalam forests. Red sanders trees do not grow anywhere else in the world and it's a highly priced commodity in the international grey market. However, there's virtually no demand in the Indian market. India has promised to protect the red sanders under an IUCN treaty in 2000.

    AP government statistics reveal that a tonne of red sanders fetched about Rs 29 lakh in the recent auction of seized logs by the forest department. The state government made a cool revenue of Rs 1,000 crore through an e-auction in September 2014. "But the price in the international market is quite high. It commands a price of Rs 70 lakh per tonne to Rs one crore per tonne in countries like China, Japan and Korea. Unchecked smuggling has been causing loss not only to the forest but also the state exchequer. Unless the government breaks the politician-smuggler nexus, smuggling will continue to flourish," warns environment activist V N Satya.

    According to forest officials, the beautiful blood red colour with unique patterns makes red sanders the most sought-after wood. But where the wood finally goes has always remained a mystery. Even the state government does not know its real use. In fact, the AP forest department has ordered a scientific study to find out what the buyers in the international market do with the red sanders. But even as the study is still underway, the demand for this highly endangered wood has been only growing further. It is, however, suspected that red sanders is used in making special musical instruments, nuclear reactors, traditional medicines and as an aphrodisiac. "We are taking up the study to find out the actual use of red sanders. This will help us in protecting the species," said AP's principal chief conservator of forests A V Joseph.

    At least six forest officials have lost their lives at the hands of red sanders smugglers since 2012. The AP government formed a joint task force team of forest and police officials last year after smugglers killed two forest officials David Karunakar and Sridhar and critically injured three others in December 2013. Since then, there have been over a dozen violent face-offs between the smugglers and the forest-police teams.

    Forest officials in Chittoor point out that the workforce employed by notorious sandalwood smuggler Veerappan in Karnataka-Tamil Nadu had switched their base to Chittoor-Kadapa districts to cut down red sanders. Incidentally, smuggling of red sanders has increased after the death of Veerappan. The modus operandi of red sanders smugglers involves the hiring of hundreds of poor labourers from Tamil Nadu and sending them deep into the Seshachalam forests to cut down the trees. Special buses are hired to ferry the workers. Though red sanders smuggling has been on since the last three decades, it has increased dramatically in the last few years.


    Red sanders fetch uptil Rs 1 crore per ton in China - The Times of India
     
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