The majority of costliest wood in the world is sold for the extraction of Agarwood oil, however the heartwood is also used in the production of Attars, manufacture of perfumes, agarbathis and has many important cultural, Medicinal, therapeutic and religious uses.
Long ago, when there were many agarwood processing units in India, agarwood was the helpline of many employees. At the oodhbathi making units, just a drop of agar oil would lend its fragrance to a heap of oodhbathis and reach thousands of homes. Even the last grade powder of agarwood was not wasted but used in the manufacture of agarbathis. However, in the present day, owing to the shortage of agar oil and the hike in prices, agarbathis no longer smell as good as they did years ago.
After the 80’s, because of the rampant practice of injuring the tree and cutting it down to extract agarwood, all the Aquilaria breed of agarwood trees disappeared in just two decades. Fortunately, a few agarwood trees remained in the protected forests and the Forest Department is supplying agarwood from these trees to processing units at a fixed price. The remaining trees in the protected forests are being conserved under the guidance of CITES.
Mumbai was the main centre for the export trade of agarwood. The government is issuing licenses to processing units and these units use imported agarwood. Efforts are currently on to revive the cultivation of agarwood in the north eastern states and Western Ghats in South India.
Natural Agarwood wood forest in India has declined drastically and dramatically over the past few decades due to unsustainable harvesting and depletion of the natural forest. The cultivation of plantations undertaken by both the government and the private sector in India are not adequate to meet the demand.