Forestry Ministry to Improve Sandalwood Market

“The ministry will continue to strengthen its capacity to support community-based sandalwood nurseries and plantations to ensure that the sandalwood industry will have consistent and abundant resources,” Mr Bulai said. 
04 Sep 2023 16:35
Forestry Ministry to Improve Sandalwood Market
Growers gathered with the staff of Ministry of Forestry during the Sandalwood Growers Association consultation at Hotel Takia in Labasa on August 31, 2023. Photo: Ministry of Forestry

The Ministry of Forestry is working to improve the sandalwood market system to ensure equitable benefits for the local sandalwood growers.

In light of this, the ministry is in consultation with the sandalwood growers around the country to form a Sandalwood Growers Association.

Ministry of Forestry’s executive director research and development, Tevita Bulai, said sandalwood remains a highly valuable commercial tree species in Fiji, although wild sandalwood resources have been largely exhausted through over harvesting, fire and theft.

Mr Bulai made this comment while opening the Sandalwood Growers Association consultation with growers of the Northern Division at Hotel Takia in Labasa last Thursday. Sandalwood was the pioneer commodity traded in Fiji, unfortunately, Mr Bulai said, it had not been utilised to its full potential. It was exploited in Fiji in the early 1800s and has been periodically overexploited ever since.

“The ministry will continue to strengthen its capacity to support community-based sandalwood nurseries and plantations to ensure that the sandalwood industry will have consistent and abundant resources,” Mr Bulai said.

“Although this transition has been challenging, particularly for prospective growers seeking to optimise commercial returns from sales, yasi replanting, nursery and seedling supply is being incentivised through the Ministry’s budgetary allocation to support interested growers.”

He said public-private partnerships with local and international institutions and non-governmental organisations; and effective bilateral partnerships with other countries that have a comparative advantage on sandalwood would be essential if the sandalwood industry in Fiji is to access international markets with premium rates for niche products processed locally.

Sandalwood seedlings.

Sandalwood Development Programme 

The ministry, through the Sandalwood Development Programme, will establish a sandalwood brand recognition and development in the international marketplace based on its natural properties and competitiveness.

They will be reaching out to key agencies within the Government to develop this brand.

“We have begun consultations with sandalwood growers in the West and Central and Eastern Division now in the Northern division finalising the Association Cooperative by laws and the formalisation of the Sandalwood Growers Association in the 2023/2024 financial year in consultation with appropriate agencies,” he said.

“The ministry will continue to provide the desired political leadership; facilitate policy coherence, harmonisation and coordination required in addressing the challenges related to forestry resources in order to ensure sustainable forest management for the current and future generations.”

Sairusi Yacalevu from Seaqaqa, Macuata, said he felt happy to be part of the consultation where he could openly share his view.

“It is important that we inform growers about the relevant policies and regulations so that we can do trade the right way,” Mr Yacalevu said.

Another participant, also from Seaqaqa, Manasa Rasaleto, said a lot of money can be earned through the sandalwood trading business, but one also needs to learn to protect the forest.

“We should not be selfish by just focusing on trade but also do replanting for the future generation,” Mr Rasaleto said.

The formation of Association is a policy objective of the Ministry of Forestry to promote the active participation of landowners for effective representation of their interests and greater engagement within a regulatory framework to drive the sector’s socioeconomic goals while managing the environmental implications. The participants at the consultation were from Macuata, Bua and Cakaudrove provinces.



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