How this native of N.America entered & got Popular in India

Drive through any part of Uttarakhand, Punjab and Haryana, and chances of you coming across trees laid down in a perfect geometrical patterns, will be very high. Congenital as it appears, it has not been the case since ever. This fairly new tree which can be found being partnered with “Eucalyptus”, [ about which I de-mystified few myths in my last article ], has an interesting story to tell of “how it ended up in India.”

Wimco, well known for its match stick production units since 1920s, was doing well with the manufacturing till 1981, which is when they realised that the only source of their match stick business i.e. Semul is not capable of matching up with the market demands and growth. Looking out for available options, Wimco coordinated with Sweden based Hillashog AB to test the adaptability of “POPLAR tree “ in India. 

The first such implantation took place in Uttar Pradesh in 1982 and Poplar came out with flying colours. Starting with first Poplar tree in 1982, today Wimco is the biggest and the only organisation which develops Poplar clones in India. Wimco since 1982 has been strictly and religiously working on the development of this entity, which has all the potential of supporting farmers and the ecology, contributing to the spirit of agroforestry.

If given a modest land, and a span of mere 8-10 years, then possibilities are, this fast growing tree will turn the space into a deciduous forest. But new clones are available which can save the years and a forest can be grown in as less as 5-7 years. [ more to be discussed in the next article of this series ] Other than contributing humongously in carbon sequestration, it gives raw product to 36 other industries including paper pulp & plywood industry. The latest report by IMARC Group titled, “Indian Plywood Market: Industry Trends, Share, Size, Growth, Opportunity and Forecast 2018-2023”, finds that the Indian plywood market reached a value of US$ 4.2 Billion in 2017, growing at a CAGR of nearly 5% during 2010-2017. 

Indian paper industry accounts for 3 percent of world’s paper production with a turnover of Rs. 500 billion approximately and contribution to exchequer Rs. 45 billion. The industry has been growing sufficiently over the last few years but not at desired rate. Demand for paper has been growing at around 8 percent per year for some time and the production grew at CAGR of 13.3 percent during 2011-15. According to the industry estimates, the domestic market or consumption of paper is over 16 million tonnes, with over 2 million tonnes being imported. Such data simply put, trees like poplar could be a great long term investment.

Rudrapur region of Uttarakhand, is no less than Mecca of poplar tree, being located in the most appropriate latitude of 28 – 32 degrees, and having its proximity to the only poplar research centre, Wimco Ltd., and 300 km from the largest wood market in Asia, Yamuna nagar. Farmers in this region have been surrendering their land to poplar since decades. After the National Agroforestry Policy was launched in 2014, a lot of these farmers had their hopes high from this sector, anticipating the government’s unassuming support.

The prices of poplar touched as high as Rs. 1100 / quintal in 2015, and a year back, the prices succumbed at around Rs. 300/ quintal. In 2018, the prices again started to rise up and the farmers again see a light of hope & profit in agroforestry, however, they are not very sure of the prophecy.

In my next article, I shall bring to you what the farmers have to say, how can agroforestry be made profitable and what does the second biggest paper manufacturer of India, ITC think about the condition of the market and the scope of profit in agroforestry in the country in the next few years.

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