Wood-based Industries in Yamunanagar
Haryana State had been pioneer in social and farm forestry. Farmers adopted eucalyptus plantations in early seventies with stimulus provided by the Forest Department. Eucalyptus was needed by the local paper mill at Yamunanagar for making pulp. Eucalyptus being timber of multiple uses was adopted to be used in furniture industry. Thus, there was great demand for eucalyptus in Haryana State in general and in Yamunanagar in particular. Farmers were getting very good prices for their eucalyptus wood until mid eighties when prices of eucalyptus timber crashed due to glut in the market. This event saw uprooting of eucalyptus trees from the farmers field in large scale and area of eucalyptus plantations shrunk to waste and degraded land only. Growing eucalyptus in farmlands in place of crops or along with crop was no more a profitable business. During the same time, West India Match Company (WIMCO) needed soft wood like poplar to make match boxes and match sticks. Climate and soil of northern Haryana, Western UP and Punjab states was suitable for fast growth of poplar.
Extensive canal irrigation also helped since poplar requires lot of water. Due to intensive canal irrigation system, water table is very high in these area, which facilitates the growth of poplar in the region. To meet its demand, WIMCO introduced poplar in the State and encouraged the farmers to grow poplar.
Poplar being a very good species for agroforestry was readily adopted by both big as well as small farmers of the region. Wheat, the main Rabi crop can easily be cultivated along with poplar plantation simply because Poplar becomes leafless during winter thus allows most of the sunlight for the agriculture crop. This provided the farmers annual returns in terms of wheat and lump sum amount at the end of rotation (7 to 10 years) of poplar trees in terms of timber along with fuel wood on regular basis. Although poplar reduces the production of wheat (15 qtl / acre in place of 17-18 qtl / acre) but the advantage of timber production was far greater than the loss in grain production.
As farmers started growing poplar in their fields, lot of timber was produced in the area, which otherwise is deficient in natural forests. This encouraged many enterprising industrialists of Yamunanagar to set up plywood and plyboard manufacturing units in twin cities of Yamunanagar and Jagadhari. Poplar was better suited for plyboard manufacturing because it is soft and light. Thus 70% of the total output consists of plyboard while 30% consists of plywood. There are about 273 plywood manufacturing units, 297 peeling units and 331 saw mills in Yamunanagar district. According to an estimate, about Rs.3 crore worth of timber comes daily to Yamunanagar market and after value addition wood products worth Rs.9 crores are manufactured. One very striking aspect of industrial development in Yamunanagar had been development of associated or ancillary units so that all the by products were utilized in an efficient manner. Peeling units and saw mills came up at the same place, scrap was sold to local paper mill for pulp formation, saw dust was supplied to klins and poultry farms and bark was used as fuel; thus every bit of wood was utilized.
Due to the local demand, farmers got attractive prices for poplar crop and income from production of timber outweighed the losses in the agriculture crops. Those farmers who adopted poplar cultivation in the beginning, became very rich and purchased modern agricultural equipments at the end of the first rotation of poplar crop. This further increased the productivity of the land. This trend continued till mid nineties, but after that there was a downward slide in the prices of the poplar wood. There are four main reasons that can be attributed to downfall of Poplar prices. Firstly, world wide recession in the economy has decreased the demand for plywood and board but production level of industry was same thus market price of these finished products came down. Secondly, Govt. of India has put timber in the OGL list, which facilitated cheap import of timber and pulp. Thirdly, New Zealand pine was available at very cheap rate at Kandla Port, which was used in Blockwood production as blocks. Plywood and blockwood of Yamunanagar was being supplied all over India but the main market is in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Thus block wood producers of Gujarat have an edge over producers of Yamunanagar. New Zealand pine is an agro-forestry crop and used to make sleepers, scrap material after conversion is exported to India at very cheap rate. Fourthly, there was imbalance in dynamic demand and supply in the local market in favour of the buyers of the poplar i.e. there is more supply than demand. Cheap poplar wood was also coming from J&K.
This problem becomes even more accentuated because due to fall in prices of block wood (@ Rs. 4 per sq. ft. from @ Rs. 9 per sq. ft.), industries in Yamunanagar shifting from Blockwood production to Plywood production. Poplar not being the best choice for veneering gives way to eucalyptus, which is harder, more durable and heavier than poplar veneer. Even if poplar veneers are used for plywood manufacturing, it should be of best quality, meaning straight clean clear bole of adequate thickness. Since poplar is the species which is not self-pruned as opposed to eucalyptus, it becomes very difficult for a normal farmer who has very little technical knowledge of growing poplar, to prune poplar trees properly.
The prices of poplar wood showed a downward trend during the period 1995-2003. The progressive, large farmers who could take the risk continued with its a farming at a reduced quantum. This development reduced the area under poplar farming which ultimately reduced the production of poplar wood in northen Indian. This corrective action of the market helped in stablilising the prices of poplar wood. Besides this general downward trend in the prices of the poplar wood, there is small seasonal variations also which becomes significant from the farmers point of view. Prices between December 15 to March 15 are generally low due to cheap availability of labour. There is also subtle variation in the weight of the timber during the dormant period i.e. in winter, weight is 5% more than the weight in summer. Similarly rate in the morning is higher than in the evening within the same day.
It is worth mentioning here that present forest and tree cover of Yamunanagar district is 24.6% whereas the forestland is just 12.1% of the total geographical area.