Winners and Losers in Tree Domestication: The Agarwood Story

Nov 10, 2017 11:00 AM ET

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Domestication of forest products that are overharvested in the wild is expected to have two types of benefits: help with protection of the remaining wild resource; and provide income for local producers. Both claims are more easily stated than substantiated and may partially contradict each other.

It could happen that domestication lowers prices to such a level that destructive harvesting is no longer worth its while. But before that happens, the claimed benefits for local incomes will have evaporated.

If the forest-protection effect is to come from restrictions on the trade of the product, it is essential that domesticated sources be distinguished from wild ones. However, this may imply a lower quality and lower price. Further, the domesticated resource may benefit farmers who can fit it into their production systems, even if they were not the ones who collected it in the forest before.

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