Is your furniture made in Gujarat? Chances are that the cost to purchase it is likely to fall significantly if the state continues its drive to plant the Malabar Neem (Melia dubia) tree.
Native to Karnataka, this tree has become immensely popular with farmers across the Saurashtra region.
According to this Times of India (ToI) report, the state saw nearly 40 lakh Malabar Neem trees planted in 2017. With the exception of a few districts, farmers across Saurashtra were reportedly more than happy to take up planting these trees.
For them, the tree is seemingly a boon since it requires less water, pesticide and stands resistant to the vagaries of climate change. Making matters better for the farmer is that minimal cost goes into paying for labour to plant, grow and cut the trees. Unlike other crops, the tree also does not come under attack from the native blue bull antelope (Nilgai).
However, the best thing about the tree is its seeming ability to make money for farmers.
“Farmers can get Rs 12 lakh as return per acre after eight years. Simultaneously, they can take sow other fruits or vegetables between these trees as the distance between them is at least 10 feet,” said Manibhai Patel, an agriculture expert working to promote Melia dubia, to ToI. “Its peeling qualities also help to get the best veneers for the plywood industry,” says the expert.
Farmers would earlier grow Eucalyptus trees, as its wood was much sought after by the plywood industry. However, the tree consumes a lot of water, and for a region suffering from drought-like conditions and a receding water table, this has become an unsustainable proposition.
At present, furniture manufacturers in Gujarat source the wood of the Malabar Neem tree from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and the Southern states, or import it. However, things can change if the government extensively promotes these trees in Gujarat.
“If the industry gets this product from Gujarat, it will reduce the production cost by 30%. There are units in Gujarat, especially in Kandla, who have shut the business. These also can be revived,” says Jikesh Thakkar, a member of Board of Governance of Indian Plywood Industries Research Institute to ToI.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)