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The Gaharu Trade in Indonesia: Is It Sustainable?

Soehartono, Tonny, Newton, Adrian C.
Economic botany 2002 v.56 no.3 pp. 271-284
Aquilaria, business enterprises, collectors, exports, fungi, harvesting, international trade, interviews, people, prices, statistics, Borneo, Indonesia, New Guinea
When subjected to fungal attack, Aquilaria spp. (Thymelaeaceae) produce a fragrant resin that is traded internationally as gaharu. Socioeconomic aspects of the gaharu trade were investigated via interviews with collectors and local and international traders. In addition, the extent of local and international trade was evaluated by reference to official government statistics. Evidence that gaharu resources are declining was obtained from the personal experience of gaharu collectors, and official statistics relating to the declining number of gaharu export companies in operation. Traders also reported that the main source of gaharu has recently switched from Sumatra and Kalimantan to sources in eastern Indonesia (Maluku and Irian Jaya), a finding supported by official statistics. Disparities recorded between official figures for the price and volume of gaharu in local and international trade, supported by comments made by export traders, indicate that a high proportion of the more valuable, high-grade gaharu is traded illegally by personal transaction. Interviews with gaharu collectors indicated that traditional approaches to harvesting are declining, as more nonlocal people become involved in collection, leading to more intensive harvesting practices. Together, these findings suggest that the current Indonesian trade in gaharu is not sustainable.