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   Commercial Gaharu Cultivation in Sarawak

Commercial cultivation of Gaharu in Sarawak is gaining momentum and contributes to the livelihood of the local communities.

Gaharu also known as agarwood, eaglewood or aloeswood is the name for resinous, fragrant and highly valuable heartwood produced by Aquilaria malaccensis and other species of the Indomalesian tree genus Aquilaria from the family of Thymeleaceae. It is among the most valuable tree species found in Sarawak in which at least three species were identified namely Aquilaria malaccensis, Aquilaria beccariana and Aquilaria microcarpa (Tawan, 2003). It is found in the plain hill slopes and ridges of up to 750m in both primary and secondary lowland dipterocarp forests.

Gaharu plays important roles in human lives. In Arab, many considered it as part of their culture and religion.

The high class of the Japanese society used it in the rituals of the Kod Doh, an incense appreciation ceremony. Both India and China had the legacy of Gaharu usage in their traditional medicine. In China, it is widely used to treat gastralgia, gastric ulcers, gastroptosis, kidney, liver and respiratory problems. It helped in blood circulation and had a complete antibiotic function against tubercle, typhoid and diarrhea bacillus.

The Chinese also used Gaharu for religious ceremonies, perfume, liquor and tea.

The European version of Gaharu is represented by the French perfume floracopia where the perfume brand “Yves Saint Laurent M7” is using Gaharu oil as its base or fixer to the other fragrance.

According to Forestry Department, Peninsular Malaysia, Gaharu prices in 2007 were RM25,000 per kg, RM20,000 per kg, RM18,000 per kg, RM15,000 per kg, RM8,000 per kg and RM3,000 per kg for super grade, grade A, grade B, grade C, grade D and grade E respectively. Prices for other grades were between RM500 – RM1,000 per kg. Prices of Gaharu chips on the other hand were between RM5 – RM100 per kg. Market survey conducted by the said department in 2007 revealed that Gaharu prices increased by at least five times in four years.

The cultivation of Aquilaria microcarpa and Aquilaria beccariana in Sarawak are in the form of in-situ mixed cropping (agrisilviculture) system, home-garden and ex-situ intercropping (mixture of timber and Aquilaria species). The earliest record of Aquilaria microcarpatree cultivation was back in early 1960s when the Kenyah community in Long Gang, Belaga involved themselves in collecting and trading of wild Gaharu. In order to conduct growth study, planting trial of 1.2 ha was done at Sabal Agroforestry Centre in April 2005. Mixed planting of Aquilaria microcarpa and Calophyllumtesymaniivar.

inophylloide (anti-HIV Bintangor species) were planted under a 22-year old Acacia mangium and old secondary forest vegetation. After six months, the first assessment was done where survival rate was 93.7 percent and another assessment was done in August 2007 where survival rate was 83 percent. At the same time, under the Community Forestry Project funded by the State Government (D60/06) poly-bags and other nursery supplies were distributed to the project participants in Long Bedian, Ulu Baram and an in-situ site in Uma Badeng, Asap, Belaga areas for them to collect Gaharu wild seedlings. As at March 2007, there are 9,742 standing Aquilaria microcarpa plants under cultivation recorded in Sarawak and another 18,000 plants are available at the nursery.

According to The Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1958 (Chapter 128) Amendment 1998, Second Schedule, CITES permit is required for Gaharu commercial cultivation, collection, propagation as well as import and export.

Gaharu from the species of Aquilaria malaccensis was listed under CITES Appendix II with annotation 1 since 17th February 1995 and thereafter it included other Aquilaria species since 17th February 2005. The Authority to issue CITES permit in Sarawak is the Forest Department.

Commercial cultivation of Gaharu in Sarawak is gaining momentum and contributes to the livelihood of the local communities. Gaharu was also proven to be a potential source of new genes as well as new products particularly drugs. Thus, it is valuable to the international agricultural and pharmaceutical industries.

Genecological zonation therefore should be done either using the agro-forestry or community forestry approach to conserve the genetic resources of Gaharu. The adoption of ethno-knowledge of the local communities and scientific approach are crucial in ensuring a brighter future of Gaharu.