Bhutan to collaborate with Malaysia for agarwood inoculation initiative

The Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Forestry Research and Training in Bumthang plans to collaborate with experts from Malaysia to establish an inoculation process for agarwood trees in the country. This initiative was discussed by the energy and natural resources minister during a question-hour session in the National Council yesterday. Concerns raised by Zhemgang’s Member of Parliament included the lack of training and access to artificial inoculants for agarwood growers, as well as issues regarding proper channels for trading agarwood and the sustainability of the agarwood business in the country.

Agarwood cultivation was introduced in the country by the late Dasho Nishioka in Zhemgang and it is used for incense, perfume, and medicinal purposes, among others.

Today, Bhutan has over 500,000 agarwood trees across seven districts. Zhemgang, where agarwood cultivation has been ongoing for over a decade, has the highest number of agarwood trees.

Zhemgang’s MP, Tshering Tshomo, raised concerns about the accessibility to inoculants, the lack of policies or guidelines, and the need for training for growers.

“For agarwood to grow naturally, it requires a long period of time. Due to this, people have no option but to use artificial inoculation to expedite the process. What kind of training is provided to growers to carry out this process?”

She added that currently, growers use inoculants bought from neighbouring Indian towns, which damages the agarwood trees.

Responding to the MP’s queries, energy and natural resources minister, Gem Tshering said that importing inoculants from countries like Thailand is expensive.

“The forest department shares that the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute of Forestry Research and Training in Bumthang is planning to develop artificial inoculants in our country in collaboration with experts from Malaysia.”

He also added that there is misinformation circulating about the ministry compensating agarwood growers. He clarified that the upcoming project in Bumthang will address the current issues.

“We plan to explore the injection process, determine the type of training required for people, and establish guidelines for conducting business in this area. Once these plans are finalised, we will share the details.”

The minister added that the tasks of training growers and developing guidelines for trading agarwood have been given to the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Forestry Research and Training.

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