Overseas bidders have evinced keen interest in seized red sanders wood sale, even a month before Andhra Pradesh government is set to float a global e-tender-cum-e-auction for the same, eyeing a revenue of over Rs 1,000 crore.
In the last few days since the government announced to sell more than 4,000 metric tonnes (MTs) of seized red sanders in log form, interested groups from countries like China, Japan, Singapore, Australia, and UAE have visited godowns across the state to check the quality of the precious wood, Forest Department officials said.
The sale of seized red sanders (confiscated from smugglers who illegally cut red sanders trees at Seshachalam forests) will be conducted for six days from September 19 for selling 4,160 MTs of red-sanders wood in 177 e-lots containing 1,77,877 logs in first phase on electronic platform by e-tender-cum-e-auction process.
"I see it as a good response shown by prospective buyers both from foreign countries and domestic buyers who have been visiting godowns stocking the wood. In coming weeks we expect maximum number of potential bidders," Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests PK Jha told PTI.
Prospective customers from abroad and India have already visited godowns in Tirupati, Kadapa, and Nellore forest divisions, before the e-auction process begins, to inspect quality/quantity of wood to be put out for sale, he said.
The government has fixed a starting price of Rs 7 lakh to Rs 12 lakh per MT for A, B, C, and non-grades respectively.
Red sanders is endemic in Seshachalam, Veliganda, Lankamala, and Palakonda hill ranges of the state, distributed in districts of Kadapa, Chittoor, and Kurnool in Rayalaseema region and parts of Nellore and Prakasam, though majority of red sanders smuggling takes place from Chittoor and Kadapa.
Red sanders, also known as red sandalwood, is a valuable wood which has a huge demand overseas, particularly in China, Japan, and East Asia, where it is used for making cosmetic products, furniture, musical instruments, and even drugs. Each tonne of red sanders commands a price of Rs 25 lakh in the international market.
Andhra Pradesh government has already made efforts to reach out to maximum number of potential purchasers by trying to involve foreign embassies in India and has also written to International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) to pass on the message with regard to auction of red-sanders.
In addition, the government has also proposed to hold roadshows in key countries such as China, Japan, and Singapore in the coming days which has more number of purchasers.
The forest department has also undertaken print campaign, placing advertisements in some of the leading global dailies, including Financial Times.
"Apart from domestic buyers...we are trying to reach maximum number of buyers abroad where red-sanders has huge demand," the senior forest official explained.
The bidders who are visiting the godowns (where CCTVs have been installed and armed guards deployed as part of security measures) have to furnish their identity cards while foreign buyers need to submit their passports details and names of such visitors will be recorded in register, Jha said.
"We are also collecting feedback/ suggestions from them," he said.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has given a one-time relaxation permitting India to export 11,806 MTs of seized and confiscated red sanders in any form, including log form.
The Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has also issued notification permitting AP government to export 8,584 MT of red sanders wood in log form by amending EXIM policy.
The forest department had been seeking nod for auctioning the logs stocked in various forest godowns in AP so that the demand becomes less, which in turn will bring down smuggling.