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Tuesday April 26, 2011

Scientists keen to study gaharu

Verdant hills: A view of the gaharu plantation in Kampung Sungai Itek.

GOPENG’s gaharu plantation has caught the attention of local and foreign scientists who are interested to know more about the cultivation of this resinous type of heartwood.

Gaharu, agarwood, eaglewood, aloeswood are a few of the names for the resinous, fragrant and highly valuable heartwood produced by the Aquilaria spp.

Gaharu Technologies Sdn Bhd managing director David Ho Kwan Meng said he had received requests from scientists to visit the plantation and study its success story.

“Those who visited our plantation were surprised to find so many healthy plants with aromatic, dense and dark resin.”

He said the plantation in Kampung Sungai Itek, about 2km from Gopeng town, also started production of gaharu tea early this month.

Latest product: Workers gathering gaharu and leaves to be processed into tea.

“We processed one tonne of leaves each day for export. We have received orders from as far as Japan, the United States and China.

“We will have another factory to increase production to meet orders next year,” he said when interviewed during a visit by Gopeng MCA division chairman Alberc Chang and Gopeng Museum curator Phang See Kong recently.

Ho said gaharu tea was a health drink that could also be used as an ingredient for cooking and preparing the essence of chicken soup.

“Gaharu tea is traditionally used for detoxification, eliminating flatulence, reducing blood glucose and uric acid, and for calmness.

“Other products from the company included gaharu chips and oil for export to the Middle East, China, India and Japan, gaharu biscuits, gaharu instant noodles and gaharu instant tea,” he added.

Ho said the company was founded in October 2008 to undertake intensive cultivation of gaharu-producing Aquilaria plants on a commercial scale in the 120ha plantation.

About 200,000 trees, he said, had been planted in the plantation which will be surrounded by an 8km-long wall resembling the Great Wall of China.

“The 3m-high wall is to protect the gaharu plants from thieves and animals. Some 2km had already been built with the remaining portion to be completed within two years.

“The plantation has a fortress-like entrance. It has been reported that high-quality gaharu resin could fetch up to RM100,000 per kg.

“Gaharu has long played a significant role in Arabic culture and religion. It is the most expensive wood,” he said.

He added that the Chinese had century-old writings mentioning gaharu, also known as Wood of Gods, in herbal medicine remedy.

“My interest in gaharu was created by my history teacher who told a story about gaharu being a much sought after plant by emperors, royal families, noblemen and the rich for its medicinal, fragrant and spiritual purposes.

“Suppliers claimed that extracts from gaharu contained anti-carcinogen, anti-oxidant, anti-aging, and anti-diabetic agents. It is also said to be a cure for erectile dysfunction,” he said.

Chang and Phang were later invited to hug an old gaharu tree, an act which Ho said his visitors from the Middle East believed to be auspicious.

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