Agartala: Tripura’s Agar industry has been in the headlines for the past few weeks, and the industry is abuzz with talks of overseas investment, especially from Laos. But local industrialists believe that there is an urgent need to address some crucial concerns before the industry takes steps into a new future.
On Monday, five industrialists arrived in Tripura and met the Agar growers. The meeting was chaired by Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, which yielded positive results. However, the state’s agar growers have expressed their reservations in responding to the industrialists and believe that any agreement on Agar trade with the industrialists should be on certain principles, assuring guaranteed returns.
According to sources in the forest department, the latest surveys have revealed that over 70 lakh mature trees exist in Agar plantations across the North Tripura district.
The Tripura Industries Development Corporation Chairman Tinku Roy said, “Agar has tremendous potential. Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb was quick to identify the wide range of possibilities in the sector and he took up the issue with the central government. Tripura got approval for exporting 25,000 metric tons of agar chips. The approval seems to be working as a catalyst for our efforts to draw investment in the sector.”
According to Roy, the investors who visited Tripura have expressed their willingness to buy 1,000 kilograms of agar-based products worth Rs 2.5 crore per month.
“Earlier, the agar cultivators had to depend on the mercy of black marketers, but today they are receiving big scopes to deal with businessmen across the globe. The investors have also assured the state government to set up an industrial unit here in Tripura for Rs 100 crore,” said Roy.
But Tripura’s Agarwood traders seem unsure of their decision. Sailen Nath, President, Agar Association, said, “The Agar association welcomes the steps undertaken by the state government to create business opportunities, but we have certain doubts which need to be cleared before any official agreement.”
According to Nath, due to the non-availability of resources and high-tech machines, the state’s agarwood cultivators are unable to manufacture all agar-based products, and thus, their production is confined to a few products.
“We produce five to six products like oil and chips from Agarwood in our small scale setups. Our concern is that if any industrialist shows interest in our product and only demands top quality, we will be unable to provide that. Due to a lack of technical support, all products are not of equal quality. We have a system of grading products as well. But what we need is a guarantee that the companies looking for bulk purchase shall buy all our products,” Nath said.
“If they purchase products selectively, we shall be unable to sell our products. Because, once we sell out the top-grade products, nobody will buy the rest. We shall bear massive losses in the open market that is now our primary choice,” Nath explained.
Nath also said that the industry’s residuals could also for the Agarbatti industry, which is also reviving. “We have spoken to some experts of the Agarbatti industry. They have suggested that we utilise the wastage woods as dust particles used for Agarbatti rolling. We are looking for investors interested in setting up a unit for the dusting of the wastage wood which can serve as raw materials for the industry.”
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