13th Dec, 2010


Plywood industry of Assam


Assam is rich in forest resources. Assam has soft woods like hollok, simolu, makai, holong etc. and hard woods like sal, teak, gamari, bansom etc. Plywood industry is one of the forest-based industries of Assam. The plywood industry is now the second largest industry in the private sector in Assam after tea industry. Plywood is made by pasting several very thin layers of wood one above another. It comes out in the form of boards of required thickness. Commercial plywood and tea chest are main products of plywood industry. Plywood is mostly used in the manufacture of tea chest, boxes, furnitures, panels, boards, flush doors, bodies of vehicles and railway compartment etc. Assam produces about 65% of the total national production of plywood.


In North-East India, the first mechanical saw milling started at Bhanga in Barak valley. In 1917 it has been transformed into a major industry with the gradual growth and development of private enterprise, particularly after independence with the assistance and encouragement from the Government and the people of the State. The plywood industry is now the second largest industry in the private sector in Assam after tea industry. After that, plywood manufacturing began at Murkongselek and Laimekuri in present Dhemaji district in Assam. These two mills used to supply tea chests made of plywood to the tea gardens of Upper Assam. In 1925 the Assam Railway and Trading Company established a large saw mill in Margherita. Another factory came up at Dibrugarh in 1943. After that, the number of plywood factories in the state started growing fast.


Assam had 52 plywood factories. Out of these, 19 factories produced plywood only for tea chests. The other factories produced various types of commercial plywood used to make doors, windows, furniture, packing boxes etc. About 40 factories were located in the districts of Dibrugarh, Jorhat and Sibsagar. At present, there are about 48 plywood factories in Assam, which have generated employment opportunities to nearly 5,600 persons directly and nearly to 1.0 lakh persons indirectly.


Total production of plywood in the state gradually increased from 31 million sq.metres in 1982 to 43 million sq. metres in 1986 and then gradually declined to 42.7 million sq. metres in 1994. This industry of Assam meets about 60% of the countries demand.


Plywood industry plays an important role in the economy of the state. It is found that about 25,000 persons are directly or indirectly involved in the plywood mills of Assam. Both the State and Central Governments collect several crores of rupees as excise and other taxes from this industry. Further Assam Government collect about 1.5 crore rupees as forest royalty from these mills and India earns more than a crore of rupees in foreign exchange out of this production.


Initially Assam had plenty of woods suitable for the production of plywood. But unplanned cutting of trees has resulted huge deforestation in the state resulting in ecological imbalance. The State Government has therefore, imposed severe restrictions on unplanned cutting of trees, which has threatened the prospect of plywood industry due to shortage of raw material. The plywood manufactures, therefore, has been forced to import a large part of their raw material from Malaysia by ship. In order to solve this scarcity of raw material, the plywood industry should go for captive plantation of soft wood in the state. Moreover, on the long-term basis, the State Forest Department and the Plywood Manufactures should also take up plantation of those trees required for the production of plywood.


If we can properly develop this plywood industry on scientific and long-term basis with easy flow of raw materials produced within the State in collaboration with the Government, this industry will no doubt contribute immensely towards the economic development of Assam.