After receiving a mind-boggling price of over Rs 1.95 crore for a tonne of A-grade Red Sanders in the just concluded global auction, the Andhra Pradesh forest department officials feel that they just saw the tip of an iceberg in terms of the demand and the multiple uses this wood has outside India.
“The Chinese importers are already asking us as to when we were planning to sell the remaining stock of the seized Red Sanders,” K Gopinath, Chief Conservator of Forests told Business Standard.
The overall windfall gain accruing to the state government from this one-of-a-kind sale is not going to be at the level of the price enjoyed by the A-grade logs since more than 95 per cent of the 4,160 tonnes of the stock auctioned between November 25 and December 1 was of C-grade quality.
According to Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests P K Jha, a total quantity of 3,615 toones of red sanders across all grades was sold amounting to Rs 991.41 crore till the last information came yesterday. Overall an average price of 27.41 lakh was fetched for the total quantity involving all the three grades compared to Rs 22 lakh-Rs 23 lakh received for the pure C-grade stock in this auction process.
The price bids of around 500 tonnes of logs were not taken into consideration as the bid prices were lower than the base price etc due to quality issues among other things, according to the officials.
The price fetched for C-grade wood too is a new record in the country since the seized Red Sanders sold by Tamil Nadu and Chattishgarh governments earlier this year fetched a maximum of Rs 13 lakh per tonne from the domestic buyers, according to Gopinath. In 2007 it was sold at little over Rs 1 lakh per tonne.
The governments are entering the sale of red sanders once in a while as they receive special permission to sell this endangered plant species after their respective forest and police departments accumulate sizeable quantities seized from the forest smugglers.
“We just made our first attempt to discover the global market for Red Sanders and we still don’t know all the details of its uses and the actual value beyond the making of the expensive furniture in China,”Gopinath said. The buyers would be spending another 10-20 per cent over the bid price, towards customs and transportation before it reaches to the final destination, according to him.
About 30 foreign buyers and 10 Indian buyers actively took part in the auction process while at least 50 per cent of the quantity was expected to be meant for shipping into China, according to the officials. AP was given the permission to sell a total quantity of 8,584 tonnes of the seized Red Sanders wood. It has kept half of the total quantity aside for sale at a later date.
A sense of uncertainly felt by the foreign buyers following the halt of the auction process in October when the the Chennai Green Tribunal issued the stay orders have had some impact on the price as well, say officials who think that the government may fetch higher price in the second round.