Thursday, December 14, 2006

Tien Phuoc farmers harvest sandalwood

Tien Phuoc farmers harvest sandalwood
QUANG NAM — Farmers in the Tien Phuoc District of the central coastal province of Quang Nam are looking forward to improved fortunes, due to a shift in traditional farming methods.
The hope for prosperity will be achieved through the exploitation of tram huong (or eaglewood) from gio (aquilaria crassna) trees planted in their own gardens.
The gio tree is believed to create the famous eaglewood by producing a kind of resin that collects in a hollow in the tree trunk.
There is wide-spread excitement about the shift, which will see a reduction in reliance on trees grown in natural forests and the salvation of the species, which has recently been entered in the Viet Nam Botanical Red Book.
Forests containing large numbers of the gio trees were first discovered fifteen years ago by those hunting for tram huong but have since become depleted by excessive call for the dried fragrant resin.
However, local farmers have rescued the trees, transplanting and nurturing them, making Tien Phuoc the national cradle for eaglewood.
One of the first to pioneer the new method of home-growing is Nguyen Quoc Trinh from the Tien My Commune.
"In 1985, seeing people rush to exploit tram huong heavily, I thought that all the gio trees would be destroyed. The trees are precious, why shouldn’t we plant them ? If we plant them for a long time, they can create tram huong for us," Trinh said. He therefore began small-scale, by planting three trees from which to harvest seeds, setting a precedent for other local farmers.
Farmers in the region experimented by encouraging formation of tram huong in gio trees by driving small iron pieces into the trees, around which tram huong would be formed.
Although initially the amount of tram huong created was small, and quality was low, the experiment proved that intervention could prove successful. Once local residents saw the potential of the experiments, many people began to gather young saplings to cultivate them in their homes.
In 1995, Nguyen Hoang Huy, a tram huong hunter in Tien Ky Commune successfully introduced a chemical catalyst into gio trees to create tram huong.
Each tree was then found to create about 10 kg of tram huong, which, with manipulation, has now been improved to such a degree that each gio tree now creates about 40 kg per year. The trees have been found to thrive because the average rate of living trees is from 80 to 90 per cent.
The district now boasts an impressive trade and has various tram huong processing workshops, attracting a large number of traders from other localities, both inside and outside the province – thus creating a "fever" for tram huong trading from the end of last year to date.
Huy has also co-ordinated with farmers in the nearby Nui Thanh District to set up a farm for planting 2,000 gio trees.
According to Tien Phuoc District Gardeners’ Association, from 1995 to 2000, the district has planted about 80,000 gio trees, and it is expected that the number will sharply increase this year. — VNS

Innovative farmer makes good with wood

Innovative farmer makes good with wood
Tree of life: Do tram, or aquilaria-crassna trees, grow widely in the central province of Quang Ngai, where they are used for making resins. The trees have brought prosperity to many farming households. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Hue
by Nhat Lam
Tran Van Quyen decided to give up his position as deputy director of the Cat Tien National Park to set up his own farm in the remote highlands in the central province of Quang Ngai, Tan Phu District.
We have to walk several kilometres from the edge of Nui Tuong Forest to climb a hill to Quyen’s farm in Nui Tuong Village, where we find 14 terraced lakes which he has built to direct water from the high mountains to his farm where it is used for irrigation and for raising fish.
The farm is worthy of its name Son Thuy (Mountain and Water) and is so beautiful it could easily be the setting of legends.
The 20ha property takes in a large house on stilts and about 100 sorts of fruit trees including mangoes, oranges and mandarins, and many kinds of rare medical herbs.
But prominent among these trees are thousands of lucrative do bau, a kind of do tram or aquilaria crassna, used for making resins and other extracts for commercial purposes.
Quyen’s story begins in 1999 when, after more than 20 years as a State employee, he invested almost all of his VND2 billion (US$125,000), and borrowed more from friends and banks to set up the farm.
Quyen says he was much more confident about growing the do bau trees, rather than trying to live off growing fruit plants and cash crops.
"I travelled through nearly the entire central region to seek out young do bau trees because in early 2000, farm owners often grew coffee, pepper and other cash crops. So young do bau trees were very rare," Quyen says.
"My ideas seemed to be very strange to many people. My relatives also said I would very soon be faced with bankruptcy."
But the past seven years have proven that Quyen followed the right track. Last year he earned as much as VND800 million.
Recently, he earned VND200 million from the selling his first 100 seven-year-old do bau trees for people to extract aquilaria oil.
Quyen says he will use his remaining 900 do bau plants to produce tram.
In the past, methods to create high-quality tram huong (eagle wood) were kept secret. But the most popular ones now are drilling the trees to spraying chemicals into them, or driving into the do bau tree with salt-soaked steel pieces.
A new method
The process of making tram huong is similar to raising oysters for pearls. It means the do bau tree must be heavily hurt to secrete its resins around the wounded points and after many years, it will become high-quality eagle wood.
Being a forest researcher, Quyen found a method of his own to create tram huong by using a kind of woodworm, the very insects that most farmers dread.
The woodworms are locally called bu xe. They slip into the trees to eat the wood to feed themselves until they become butterflies.
For other trees, the bu xe may cause harm but for the do bau tree, the bu xe force it to secrete resins which become tram huong.
Quyen says this natural method creates much more high-quality tram huong which can be sold at a higher price compared with the products made through popular methods.
"Twenty years of working as a forest researcher at the Cat Tien National Park helped me discover the insects that could help me to produce the rare tram huong now," Quyen explains.
Currently, he has set a net around his do bau forest to raise bu xe and thus create tram huong. He also produces young do bau trees for those farmers who want to grow tram huong.
"I will gain my investment back within the year," Quyen says, adding that he will no longer fear bankruptcy because the farm is estimated to earn him an annual profit of VND500 million a year.
Besides do bau, Quyen also invests in growing other specialist trees which have been listed in the Viet Nam Red Book, such as diospyros min ebony, dallergia bariensis, pahudia, taxusp and pterocarpus pedatus pierre.
"I planted these trees not for profit but for preservation," he says.
Sharing good fortune
He tells us that he has asked local people to use do bau trees instead of dong (a kind of tree often used as a pile for pepper growing).
The peppers will stick themselves closer to the do bau trees and give much more fruits than to the dong trees, and they will face less diseases, he explains.
Moreover, after eight years of growing the peppers, the farmers can sell the fresh do bau trees because three tonnes of the trees after processing will give one litre of tram oil that can be sold at a price of more than US$7,000. The tram oil sells very well in the local and international markets.
Many farming households have been following Quyen’s plan and guidelines.
"We hope that in the near future the do bau trees will bring prosperity to my village, one of the poorest areas in the Dong Nai River," he says.
Quyen recalls the story of his life: he was born in the poor mountainous village of Quang Ngai. His childhood was closely connected with bird song and forests. His father, a revolutionary, was arrested and placed in prison in Con Dao until his death. Quyen’s mother and her eight children used the forests to earn a living.
But they couldn’t live long in their homeland because they were relatives of a communist. They had to leave for Sai Gon, now HCM City. Quyen says he had to help his mother work very hard after he finished his classes.
After graduating from the then University of Agriculture and Forestry, in 1981, he volunteered to work at the Tan Phu District’s forestry, located among rolling mountains and forests in the south-eastern region.
Two years later he was assigned to act as deputy director of the Cat Tien National Park. During his time working at the park, Quyen tried to improve his forest knowledge by practising and learning from travelling to other national parks.
"My hard work has finally paid off," Quyen says. — VNS

Curse of the Gaharu

Curse of the Gaharu
The Asmat people of Papua New Guinea believe in the magical powers of the gaharu tree. They burn its resin to connect with their ancestors and to cast spells. Outsiders, meanwhile, value gaharu as the source of a costly incense. But now, commercial interesrs want to log and mine the very forests which these trees grow in.
ON THE Asewetsj River in the mountainous rainforest of the western Papua region of New Guinea, a score of men from the indigenous Asmat people set off in canoes to search for gaharu trees, believed to hold a magic that protects their culture – or a curse that could unravel it.
Some of the men wear white-feathered headdresses lined with shells; some have painted their faces and chests with white lime. Occasionally they stop rowing and beat their paddles against the canoes, playing them like drums.
The Asmat believe that an ancient god, Fumeripits, carved their ancestors from the surrounding trees.

In western New Guinea, the centre of every Asmat community is the traditional jeus or longhouse made of sago thatch, tree bark and pole trees.
Drum sounds bring the spirits to life. So does incense from gaharu trees.
The trees produce a hard, black resin that the Asmat burn to connect with their ancestors and to cast spells. Outsiders, too, value gaharu as the source of a costly incense for the markets in Asia and the Middle East.
The rowers penetrate one of the world’s largest, most biologically diverse intact rainforests. Its mountains, including the 5,333m Puncak Jaya, are the tallest in South-East Asia. Malarial swamps surround the mountains like moats.
Now commercial interests want to develop lumber and mineral resources in the 20,200sqkm region. The rainforest holds many valuable kinds of trees and veins of gold, silver and copper. This year the Indonesian government divided Papua into three districts for development.
More than 70,000 Asmat live in villages throughout the region, harvesting wild sago trees and fishing.
“The land and the natural environment are like our own mother, who nurtures her children so they are healthy and survive,’’ says Wiro Birif, a leader of Lembaga Musyawarah Adat Asmat (LMAA), a community activist group. “Nature is also the place where our ancestors live. They are around us here in the forest.’’

More than 70,000 Asmat live in 150 villages scattered throughout the rainforest of western New Guinea.
Like many subsistence cultures around the world, the Asmat need to reconcile the old ways and the new markets.
“When outsiders first came into these villages a few years ago offering money for gaharu, it was seen as a chance to make easy money. A gold rush mentality followed,’’ says Nev Kemp of the Washington DC-based Indo-Pacific Conservation Alliance, which helps support LMAA’s conservation efforts. “A lot of the traditional customs that protect these people and this forest started breaking down.’’
Among the rowers on the Asewetsj River is Ernest Dicim, another LMAA leader. “The gaharu tree is a tree for life, a tree where many spirits reside,’’ Dicim says. “It can be used to communicate with the spirit world.’’
A curse falls upon those who abuse the gaharu, the Asmat believe. “Many people, mothers, fathers and children, have died,’’ Dicim says.
A scout spots a promising gaharu site. The men pull over to the riverbank. There they build a small wooden altar where they place tobacco, stones and leaves – an offering to the ancestors. Barefoot, the men walk single-file into the forest, clearing a path with their machetes. Ahead is a gaharu tree. Not until the men chop down the tree will they know if it contains the treasured resin. They wind a sash of leaves around the tree for luck and begin chopping with axes.
As the tree falls, the Asmat chant. The sun pours through the tear in the canopy. The men jimmy the bark off the tree. A thin, hard black vein suddenly appears in the white wood. “Ini gaharu hitam bagus,’’ Dicim says (“this is good black gaharu”).
Gaharu traders from elsewhere in Indonesia have brought money – as well as alcohol and prostitution.
“As a result, many men contracted syphilis,’’ Ernest says. “And there was also no awareness about HIV. There was sexual activity without knowledge of consequences. Many people died, became thin and just died.’’
Asnar Arsat, an outside trader from the island of Sulawesi, hires Asmat to collect gaharu for him. “But the gaharu trees are disappearing,’’ Ansar explains. “Gaharu is getting rare. You have to go a long way to find it now.’’
Traders are aware of the curse of gaharu. “It is generally believed that the profits you make from gaharu, if you put that in another business, the business will fail,’’ Arsat says.
The LMAA leaders fear that loggers and miners will follow the traders. The fate of the Asmats depends on more than the tree of good and evil.
A balance must be struck between traditional reverence for the forest and modern incentives to destroy it. – 2003 National Geographic Society

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Producing gaharu

Producing gaharu
By Hilary Chiew
Researchers are looking at various inducement techniques to produce aromatic gaharu on a commercial scale.
The Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (Frim) began researching in the late 1990s following a surge in market demand for gaharu and is still refining its inoculation technique.
Based on anecdotes from Orang Asli collectors, researchers deliberately wound the tree trunk and indeed, gaharu was produced in varying degrees of formation, suggesting that it can be induced in standing Aquilaria trees by artificial means. But the grade obtained was inconsistent.
Over 100 Aquilaria malaccensis saplings were planted on a 1ha trial plot at the institute’s research station at Bukit Hari between 1998 and 2000. Artificial inducement was carried out after three years but the trees did not respond.
FRIM research co-ordinator Dr Chang Yu Shyun suspects that the trees were not mature enough to produce the resin.
"In nature, when a branch or twig is broken, the wound attracts bacteria, fungi and pathogens. In gaharu-producing species like Aquilaria, the tree will produce the resin to contain the infection from spreading, covering the wound and blackening the whitish heartwood. That’s how gaharu is produced.
"The challenge is to come out with high quality or the desired grade and predictable volume to make planting a viable solution to over-harvesting of wild species," says Chang.
The senior research officer in the biotechnology division says the research initially focused on inoculation trials but later expanded to cover the biological aspect, economic value, trade and chemical analysis of the fragrant resin.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Institute of Nuclear Technology (Mint) has applied nuclear irradiation technology to mass-produce plantlets via tissue culture.
Seeds were screened for fast-growth and single-bole characteristics at the cellular level and lead researcher Dr Rusli Ibrahim claims he has found the secret formula after one year of experimentation.
"With this technique, we can fast-track the growing stage. Many plantation investors will benefit from this advancement."
Five hundred plantlets are growing in a trial plot near Dengkil. Rusli says two other research groups will look for suitable antagonists to induce the tree and the best extraction technique to yield oil of the desired chemical composition.
The hill within the MINT compound was recently discovered to host 157 matured Aquilaria trees. "At the end of the year, we intend to invite two United States experts to demonstrate to the growers the right way of inoculating these trees," says Rusli.
MINT has submitted four funding proposals under the Ninth Malaysian Plan to support the research work which will also include developing a standard grading system for woodchips and oil extracts.

Oud Perfume Oil from the Agarwood Tree

Few perfume oils have the mystique of Oud. Made from the fragrant resin found in Aquilaria trees, Oud is also referred to as Agarwood, Aloeswood and Eaglewood. This is the Aloe spoken of in the Bible. It has been loved and treasured for thousands of years, by mystics and romantics alike. Oud is proclaimed as a aid to spiritual meditation. Lovers use it as an aphrodisiac.
Indeed, the hunger for Oud is so great that in most parts of the world Agarwood trees are nearing extinction. Most of the Agarwood on the market is now obtained through poaching. Agarwood is believed to have originated in the Assam region of India, and from there spread throughout southeast Asia. Oud now comes from India, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines... and while trees dwindle, the demand keeps growing. The cost of Agarwood oil now exceeds $27,000 per pound!
There is good news, though, for Oud lovers:
Several decades ago, enterprising farmers in Assam began a major replanting of Agarwood trees throughout the region. Agarwood nurseries have produced tens of thousands of healthy seedlings for Agarwood plantations, and everyone is being encouraged to once again plant these beautiful trees in their yards.
Practicing organic, sustainable harvesting methods, these Agarwood plantations and extraction centers are providing good livings for honest families, and insure that these amazing trees will survive for generations to come. The Agarwood Oil they produce is extremely high quality. All the work is done by hand, with sincere respect and dedication for the trees and the land.
Another recent development to conserve the precious Aloeswood is the use of CO2 extraction instead of distillation. CO2 extraction does not use any solvent chemicals, making it environmentally-friendly. Instead, it uses the same carbon dioxide that is in soda pop. CO2 extraction is so powerful that it requires less wood than steam distillation to obtain the same amount of Oud. And because it doesn't use any heat, Aloeswood CO2 extract has a much more vibrant fragrance that is truer to life.
Aloeswood oil from CO2 extraction smells earthy, woody and sweetly balsamic. It is rich and complex, not burned or musty-smelling like some heat-distilled Ouds. A good perfume house will provide affordable samples of their Oud.
So as you shop for Oud, remember to find out how it was obtained, and how it was extracted. Support the people who truly love the Agarwood tree, not those who merely exploit it. Buy from a supplier with a good reputation who makes samples available.
Siri Amrit Kaur Khalsa started Tigerflag Natural Perfumery at to give people natural alternatives to chemically-laden perfumes, soaps and candles. She specializes in rare, handmade Indian Attars.

Losing the scent - slow death of fragrant timber

Spotlight: Losing the scent - slow death of fragrant timber26 Nov 2006Elizabeth John
It’s a fragrant wood sought after for centuries and it is slowly fading from the wilderness. The trees that produce this wood are being felled in great numbers to feed this insatiable hunger.IT IS the exotic scent of Arabian fairytales, it is in medicines that soothe and heal, and it fills temples in a sweet offering to the gods.Praised and prized over the ages, fragrant agarwood, or gaharu, has survived centuries of extraction from dense jungles and a persistent trade across the globe — until now.In recent years, the warm, musky aroma of one of the world’s most expensive fragrant woods has attracted a dangerous kind of admirer. The poacher.In May, when countries met at the first Asean Wildlife Enforcement Network meeting, five out of 10 named agarwood poaching as a specific priority for increased law enforcement, says Traffic Southeast Asia’s regional director James Compton.Poachers are often coming from neighbouring countries — in Malaysian jungles are Thais and Cambodians. In Laos, there are Vietnamese and Chinese poachers.What’s clear, say authorities, is that the quest for agarwood has become the primary reason foreign poachers enter these forests.Anything else they bag — whether a tiger or fruit bat — is a mere bonus.Hunters risk much in pursuit of the aromatic phenomenon — agarwood is formed in the trunks and roots of certain tree species as a reaction to an infection by a fungus. Living off the lush jungles for four to six weeks at a stretch, in crude structures fashioned from roughly-hacked trees, the poachers scour the forest for their bounty.The price — ranging from RM500 per kg for low-grade fragrant wood paid directly to collectors and up to RM37,000 for a kilo of processed high-grade resinous wood in end markets — makes braving dangerous wild animals in the forest and a jail term seem worthwhile.Traffic’s research shows that such encroachment has occurred in Peninsular Malaysia’s protected areas in Pahang, Perak and Johor. Other researchers looking at the Maliau Basin Conservation Area in Sabah five years ago found that most of the Aquilaria malaccensis — the major agarwood-producing tree species in the state — had been felled in the area they studied. A further twist to the story is that although distilled agarwood oil is a major product in the market and dozens of distilleries are said to exist in Malaysia and the region, there is little tracking of the oil in trade. What was a traditional trade for centuries, supplying very specific markets and a relatively limited number of users, trade has increased dramatically since the 1970s, Traffic’s research shows.Increased purchasing power in large consumer markets, like Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, as well as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has increased the volume of trade — and consequently the volume of harvesting. In the last four years, an ever-growing number of tourists from the Middle East to Malaysia has seen the creation of an "Arab Street" in the heart of Kuala Lumpur dotted with stalls selling agarwood chips and oil.Although targeted at tourists, it is likely that large buyers are also benefiting from the the capital’s large unregulated retail market. No one knows how much of it is taken out of the country, stashed in luggage, as personal effects. It could amount to a great deal, says Compton.The export of over 350 tonnes of agarwood was reported in 2004 as A. malaccensis. This species is protected under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Persistent and possibly increasing demand for agarwood has caused populations of eight of 15 Aquilaria species to decline to the extent of being categorised as "threatened" in the World Conservation Union’s Red List. Of these, six are considered at risk from over-exploitation for the fragrant wood.Malaysia has a long history in the agarwood trade with its first known involvement appearing in a Chinese Customs record in 1200 AD.Together with Indonesia, Malaysia is the world’s largest producer of agarwood for the legal trade with most of it exported as wood chips and powder, according to the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.Most of the agarwood is traded via Singapore — the world’s major agarwood re-export hub. Last year, just one of several shipments from Malaysia to Singapore contained 122 tonnes of agarwood chips. With harvesting and poaching reaching worrying levels, pressure from large exports isn’t likely to help the survival of the species. It’s partly why the CITES standing committee wants Malaysia to explain why it’s allowing as much as 200 tonnes of agarwood from A. malaccensis to be legally exported next year. "The quota’s very high," explains the CITES secretariat scientific officer for plants, Milena Schmidt.If Malaysia fails to justify the figure in time, the country will be suspended from legal trade in the species on Jan 1. To help the process along, Malaysia recently hosted a group workshop with international experts to discuss the complex global trade, said Compton.Discussions among the 90 delegates from the producing, trading and consumer countries revolved around managing harvests, setting quotas and assessing stocks in the wild.Enforcement issues took centre stage with the workshop agreeing that serious action was needed to stop poaching and smuggling.It is likely that the recently established Asean Wildlife Enforcement Network may serve as a forum for intelligence exchange and, along with Interpol’s wildlife crime working group, enhance enforcement efforts.While a number of producer countries like Malaysia grapple with these problems, a huge shift is taking place elsewhere that could present another worry.To take the pressure off wild sources of agarwood, countries like Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and India are setting up agarwood plantations in a big way.Hectares of agarwood-producing species have been planted and the natural process of infecting the wood is often enhanced through treatment to encourage resin formation in these plantations, says Compton.Thailand’s agarwood growers association currently numbers 44,000 members. In Assam, India, there are 60,000 growers directly involved in such plantations, he adds."So there is a huge human dimension to this trade, involving the livelihoods of many rural people dependent on the industry — both from plantations and the wild."In about five to 10 years, this cultivated fragrant wood will hit the markets. It may offer hope for the survival of the highly desired but greatly beleaguered wild agarwood stocks. "But how do you tell plantation-grown agarwood from wild stocks?" asks Compton. The ability to make the distinction is crucial as it will benefit the conservation of wild species, the development of plantations and legal harvesting, says Compton. Any confusion could give smugglers their most convenient cover, the perfect mask to hide the stench of stolen treasures.

Sandalwood Farming Commercially Viable

Sandalwood Farming Commercially Viable
Chipped sandalwood before being graded for market. Pix: Mohd Haikal Isa
By Mohd Haikal Mohd IsaJOHOR BAHARU, July 25 (Bernama) -- Poachers in droves are chipping off dark-coloured resin or extracting oil from sandalwood trees in the country's forest reserves to make gaharu, an incense for religious rites and a raw material for perfume.The lack of enforcement has enabled poachers to encroach the forests of Kelantan, Pahang, Johor and Sarawak for the pricey resin. Sandalwood trees are also found in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, India and Indonesia.The sandalwood tree or scientifically known as Aquilaria Malaccensis is called Chen Xiang by the Chinese, Jin-Ko by the Japanese, and Oud or Oode among Arabs.The universal usage of gaharu dates back to the times of the pharoahs.RESEARCH"The resin fetches between RM5,000 and RM100,000 per kilogramme depending on its grade while the price of its oil is 10 times more," said Humara Enterprise Sdn Bhd local technical director Syed Abdul Jalil Shah.Humara Enterprise is teaming up with Konsesi Utama (M) Sdn Bhd to supply sandalwood seeds for commercial farming of the trees.Syed Abdul Jalil himself is conducting research on sandalwood to find ways to prevent its depletion in the jungles.He said: "Sandalwood or 'agaru' in Sanskrit is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which means sandalwood in the jungles cannot be extracted and traded."However, according to an international observing body on plant and wildlife commerce, TRAFFIC, resin and oil from some 700 tonnes of sandalwood worth RM3.5 billion in the international market were extracted from the Malaysian and Indonesian forests in 2000 alone, he added.HIGH VALUESyed Abdul Jalil said Humara Enterprise believed that commercial farming would be one of the ways to protect the species from depleting.Malaysia has four out of eight types of sandalwood trees in the world, namely Karas, Candan Gajah, Candan Gunung and Cendana.A kilogramme of the Karas sandalwood is said to be valued between RM5,000 and RM60,000, Candan Gajah (RM180,000-RM200,000) and Candan Gunung (RM1 million) while a litre of sandalwood oil is valued 10 times more than its wood."The sandalwood tree can grow under almost any conditions in the tropical climate with minimal care and can reach 40 metres in height upon maturity while its branches can stretch out as long as 60cm," said Syed Abdul Jalil."However, the Candan Gunung species can only grow at the altitude of 1,500 feet above sea level, making it difficult to find and breed."COMMERCIALISATIONKonsesi Utama currently has about 1.2 million sandalwood saplings of between six and eight months and hundreds more plants aged six years and above at its 313-acre plantation in Pahang.It also has more than 3,000 principal sandalwood trees at its 33-acre nursery.Syed Abdul Jalil declined to reveal the locations of the plantation and nursery as they are highly valuable.However, he said Konsesi Utama and Humara Enterprise were ready to supply the saplings to companies keen to undertake such a farming project, and they would be provided with free upkeeping for two years.He claimed that so far, only Konsesi Utama and Humara Enterprise were scientifically and commercially planting sandalwood trees in the country.He said sandalwood also had other uses as the leaves could be processed into medicinal products, the twigs and dregs for making incense, and the wood for furniture."Sandalwood plantations can also be an agro-tourism attraction since sandalwood is known locally and internationally for its valuable uses," he said.-- BERNAMA

Agarwood - Lucrative business

Lucrative business
Shops selling aromatic gaharu oils and woodchips are sprouting in Kuala Lumpur to cater to Middle Eastern tourists. The business, however, is depleting a species of trees in the forest.
IT’S that time of the year that has come to be recognised as “Arab season”, where hordes of Middle Eastern tourists throng shopping malls and streets in Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle.

Gaharu, or agarwood, is essentially the resin extracted from the infected part of gaharu-producing Aquilaria trees. – Picture by S.S. KANESANRestaurants featuring Arabic cuisine have sprouted in the main boulevard of the Bukit Bintang area but a far more lucrative business catering to these tourists is the many outlets selling a type of fragrance in wood form or oil.
Billboards in Arabic, English and Bahasa Malaysia featuring incense burners, woodchips and perfume bottles advertise the goods – gaharu or agarwood.
A recent phenomenon, these outlets are targeting Arabs with a penchant for the aromatic products that come from forests in this part of the world. The fragrant wood is essentially the resin extracted from the infected part of gaharu-producing Aquilaria trees.

Retailer Abu Mishaal says his best quality agarwood comes from Cambodian and Malaysian forests. – Picture by DARRAN TANRetailer Abu Mishaal says the gaharu retail business began four years ago and the number of shops has increased lately. A random count showed at least a dozen such shops, including two new ones operating from a hotel lobby.
The business partner of Al-Anood says his best quality agarwood came from Cambodian and Malaysian forests. “We buy from many places but mostly from Malaysia and Indonesia. We get an average of 6kg a month from Malaysia but 50kg from Indonesia in the wood form.”
The black, aromatic oil in bottles is extracted from woodchips at a distillation plant in Kajang. Arriving in Malaysia seven years ago, the Yemeni businessman saw the potential of the business and supplied the perfumed oil to the Middle East before setting up shops in the city. The plant produces 2kg of oil each month and these are bottled in 3mg, 6mg and 12mg glass containers.
Like other gaharu outlets at Jalan Bukit Bintang, Al-Anood sells woodchips, oil and powder. “Tourists buy these as souvenirs for their friends and relatives back home,” he explains.
Woodchips range from RM100 to RM500 per kg for the average grades. The superior quality grade can fetch no less than RM5,000 per kg while a 12mg bottle of oil ranges from RM50 to RM200. However, prices for the best quality are determined by the buyers’ knowledge and bargaining skills.

Gaharu can be ground into powder form and used as incense. – Pictures by DARRAN TANOther nationalities like Cambodians and Thais have also joined the business. One outlet in a hotel lobby is helmed by a Bangladeshi who professes to have dabbled in gaharu and the Arabic perfumery industry since 1976. Differing from other perfume producers, the Muslim-Arab perfume industry relies on the alcohol-free gaharu oil extracts.
“We might set up a distillation plant here to ease supply flows,” says the trader. “Currently, we depend on our two Jakarta factories for the oil extracts. It all depends on the supply of woodchips and market demand. It’s a bit too soon to tell as my shop is not officially open yet,” he says, adding that he is in the process of obtaining the required business licences.
He points out that local supply of the woodchips is shrinking and high quality resin is a rarity these days. The best quality gaharu is burned directly as incense by wealthy Arabs during important functions. Due to declining quality, traders are turning to distillation to add value to an otherwise low quality yield.
The traders claim that it is not an offence for tourists to carry a few bottles or packets of the woodchips home as these are for personal use.
“They don’t need any Cites certificate. Our raw materials are acquired legally hence the end products are also legal,” assures Abu Mishaal. Harvest of the woodchips is supposedly regulated by the respective state Forestry Department.
The entire genus of Aquilaria was listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in late 2004 with mounting concerns over the sustainability of the trade. International trade of the species is regulated by a permit system to show that the specimen was acquired with no detrimental effect to its survival in the wild.
Both traders say their businesses are registered with the Malaysian Timber Industrial Board (MTIB) – the management authority for Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah on timber-related Cites species.
But enquiries to MTIB – on regulating the growing gaharu trade and closing Custom loopholes which do not cover gaharu oil – went unanswered. It is learnt that MTIB has not issued any Cites import certificates or re-export permits for gaharu products made from imported woodchips or resin, indicating that the bulk of the Bukit Bintang trade is effectively illegal.

Like other gaharu outlets at Jalan Bukit Bintang, Al-Anood sells woodchips, oil and powder. Some of the oil is mixed to create fragrances to the liking of Middle East tourists.At a workshop organised by Traffic (a WWF-IUCN trade monitoring group) in March, an official from MTIB said stringent checks were needed at airports as there have been cases of gaharu woodchips being declared as other products. He said it was difficult to control the trade and suggested monitoring at the harvesting stage and commercial plantation to meet market demand.
Previously, MTIB’s director of licensing and enforcement Norchahaya Hashim said exporters must produce the respective state extraction permit, the licence number of the processors and receipt of the royalty payment before applications were processed. She noted then that MTIB needed the support of the Customs and Excise Department to curb smuggling at entry and exit points, adding that awareness of the issue has to be raised among relevant agencies.

Gaharu containing woodchips are displayed according to grade and country of origin in the outlets at Jalan Bukit Bintang.Kelantan implemented a licensing scheme on gaharu collection, processing and trading last year but other states have been slow in recognising the value of the resin.
Stringent licensing at the state level and licensing of traders like those at Bukit Bintang would curtail uncontrolled harvest.

On the hunt for that fresh aroma

On the hunt for that fresh aroma
By Ivan Gale, Staff Reporter
Dubai: Abdullah Ajmal is a walking fragrance test strip.
As assistant general manager to Ajmal Perfumes, one of Dubai's largest perfume manufacturers, he regularly splashes on the latest scent in development and offers himself to the discerning judgement of friends, family and co-workers.
In the office, in the car, even, he'll douse himself with a "fresh coat" and makes sure he's wearing a jacket billowy clothes help the fragrance waft out.
The results range from the good, the bad and the smelly.
"I've been told a fragrance smells like dry paint or burnt plastic," said Abdulla, a gregarious man who on this day at the Ajmal factory suited himself in dark tones, with greased back hair and dot-com glasses the perfect representation of "urban chic" the company is trying to reach with its new line of scents.
But more often than not Ajmal Perfumes hits the right note, with nearly 100 retail outlets and revenues of $125 million last year.
The Middle East fragrance market has shown remarkable fortitude. The spicy, drunken luxuriousness of Arabic perfumes incorporate natural floral and resin scents discovered thousands of years ago, and were a major part of the $590 milion in GCC sales of perfume last year, according to International Cosmetic News-Middle East.
Last year the GCC fragrance market grew 17 per cent, led by sales in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Not one to be left behind, Ajmal has begun creating new fragrances that straddle the worlds of East and West as tastes change.
Ajmal's latest fragrances, Shadow and Teyf, have been outstanding successes; in three months on the shelves the pair have sold 30,000 bottles each, forcing the company to airlift supplies to keep pace with demand. The success of his two latest creations makes Abdullah proud. Seated in the Ajmal boardroom, he cocks his head to one side and a grin dawns on his face. "Hamdulillah, that's pretty good!"
Abdullah calls Shadow a modern man's classic cologne with a spicy Arabic enhancement. Teyf represents the oriental mystique, and includes the age-old Arabic ingredient, oudh.
Originating from only five nations worldwide, oudh is an oil produced by the Agarwood tree after a parasitic fungus attacks it. The tree is harvested and boiled down to extract the precious oil, which can sell for up to Dh3,000 for a tolla, or 11.3 grams. Ajmal Perfumes has patented the process of inoculating Agarwood trees with the fungus, ensuring a safe and sustainable supply of oudh.
Abdullah acknowledges the many responses to the quixotic scent. He describes oudh as "animalistic," "sweet," and "earthy." "One French perfumer said it smelled like horse, but he said he loved the stuff," he says.
At the Ajmal factory, one room is the Fort Knox of oudh. Squat round tanks hold priceless gallons of the stuff, with each jug representing a different source one from Indonesia, one from the Assam, the region in India where the Ajmal family originated. (Once they began making perfumes, it didn't hurt that their family name, Ajmal, means "most beautiful" in Arabic).
In the oudh room, no doors can hold the aroma in; one member of Abdullah's entourage during the tour retired to the hallway to rest her nostrils from the room's pungent power.
The two fragrances were three years in the making, twice as long as usual. Extra time was needed to design the transparent bottles, whose top chamber holds the potpourri representing the perfume's ingredients.
Both meet Abdullah's expectations for "urban chic," a growing customer segment for Ajmal. No longer satisfied as a niche player, Ajmal has set its sights on becoming a global brand.
"What we are trying to accomplish is to transcend the beliefs and preconceptions about us and get people to realise we are a fragrance house," he says.
"Yes we speciality in oriental, but what we are good at is making fragrances and we can make all sorts of perfumes," he adds.

Gaharu Mania Sweeps Across Irian Jaya

"Gaharu Mania Sweeps Across Irian Jaya" Byline: Alex Clear Date: October, 1997. Jakarta, Indonesia. (Unpublished)
They call it Gaharu, but to the Western world and Middle East it is known as sandalwood. It is found in luxury consumer goods like perfumes, soaps, and incense produced by popular cosmetic companies and sold in department stores. It is used in saunas to fragrance the air. Or even used in a clothes drawer to pleasantly scent the stored clothing. It has also the talk and excitement of Irian Jaya for the past couple of years.
Why is there a connection between Irian Jaya and this Western/Middle Eastern luxury? Simply because since 1996 large amounts of the world’s sandalwood, or gaharu, supplies have been collected and exported from Irian Jaya. Prior to 1996, no Indonesian policies in Irian Jaya to integrate, assimilate, or even out populate the Irianese had ever really worked; at least to scale that Gaharu Mania has swept across Irian Jaya.
Is the extraction of Gaharu a systematic Indonesian policy to create a dependency of the Irianese on the Javanese? Well, not strictly. Prior to 1996, gaharu was primarily extracted from the jungles of Borneo, including East Borneo or the Indonesian province of Kalimatan. But over the years the Indonesian traders had found the collection of gaharu increasingly difficult in Kalimatan due to dense mountainous jungle deep in the heart of Borneo and the depletion of supplies. In 1996, attention was turned to Irian Jaya where for the first time, there was not only the support of the government employees in the province, but more importantly the willingness of the Irianese themselves to participate in the collection of this precious wood.
But what has been the impact of gaharu mania in Irian Jaya? Agats was once a quite little town on stilts with two sleepy hotels that cater for the few tourists that vi sited each year. The Asmat Inn, upon my arrival was lively with the constant flow of visitors to the rooms. A couple of years earlier there was “no prostitution,” according to Missionary Tom Putman, who has been in Irian Jaya since 1982.
On one occasion an indigenous man from Senggo, approximately twelve-hours up river by motor boat, approached the Bishop to ask for help. “I want to go home,” he said.
The man was asked why it was that he had come so far to Agats. “I sold my gaharu here,” he replied.

“Well then,” responded the Bishop, “I am sure you have plenty of money.”
“But I have spent it,” replied the man.
“What did you buy?” inquired the Bishop, “Did you buy rice or did you buy noodles?”
Eventually the man owned up that he had spent his money on the women in Agats. Rumour has it that one session costs over $100 and “customers are queuing up,” added Putman.
It can not be argued that the indigenous people are not financially gaining from the extraction of gaharu from Irian Jaya. For once, the Irianese are able to get beyond their subsistence day to day living, but it will “probably fizzle out within five years” according to Putman.
About a day up river, the village of Awok was virtually empty. The village of Awok has a population of about three-hundred. In the evening a young man named Yakob returned to the jungle. He had spent the day searching for gaharu in the jungle. “Where is everyone from the village,” I asked.
“They are looking for gaharu,” Yakob replied, “men, women, children – everyone!”
In the morning Yakob took me into the jungle to search for gaharu. The word ‘sandalwood’ is a little misleading. Gaharu is actually a type of tumour that sometimes grows within a tree. An entire tree may only produce few grams of gaharu; it is more likely that a tree produces none.
Yakob explained that there were three grades. Grades one, two, and three are sold to traders for $90, $60, and $30 per kilogram respectively, and that it was Chinese-Indonesian and Javanese traders that travelled from jungle village to jungle village by speed boat to buy the gaharu. The traders then ship large quantities of the wood from key export centres like Agats with the assistance of local military and police who a profit from the buying and selling of gaharu. The gaharu is then sold to European, North American, and Middle Eastern buyers from warehouses in Jakarta where one kilogram can reach between $500 and $1,000.
“How do the traders in Irian pay for the gaharu,” I asked.
“They pay in cash,” replied Yakob, “we buy coffee, sugar, rice, and noodles … if we don’t collect gaharu we can not buy food … if we collect gaharu we can buy things.”
A couple of days further up river in the head waters of the Brazza and Becking Rivers the Irianese would wave bags of gaharu as I passed in my small motorized boat. I asked one man how much he was selling his bundle of gaharu for. “$10 per kilogram,” he replied. I told him how much gaharu was sold for in Agats, Jakarta, and Europe. He told me that if he asks for more money from the traders, then they will not buy from him as there are plenty of other people selling gaharu.
A few weeks later I flew back to Sentani from Yaniruma on a missionary flight. One missionary pilot had told me that MAF (Missionary Aviation Fellowship) would not allow the use of missionary planes to transport gaharu. But luggage is not searched, and one of my fellow passengers was a man who called himself Alex and regularly takes trips from Boma with bags of gaharu. Alex claimed that he had ten-kilograms on this trip, with a Sentani export value of $2,800. In Sentani, Alex was met by a police officer who he introduced as his business partner.
Gaharu mania has to be the most invasive action in Irian Jaya since the spread of sweet-potatoes, but like the sweet-potatoes, gaharu mania only happened as quickly and thoroughly as it has because of the willingness of the Irianese to participate in the extraction and selling of the wood. “I have an idea,” said Putman, “it [gaharu mania] may only last a couple of years.”
“Without gaharu,” said Yakob, “we have no work … when the gaharu is gone, we again have no work.” But like Kalimatan, Irian Jaya’s gaharu will not last forever, and with it’s demise so will the opportunities and status of the indigenous people of Irian Jaya.

Cultivating the world's most expensive incense

Cultivating the world's most expensive incenseWhen most people think of expensive natural resources, they think of gold, silver, or diamonds, not wood. People living in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Guinea, or Saudi Arabia for example, might add agarwood to that list. And a University of Minnesota professor has come up with a way to cultivate it sustainably.
Robert Blanchette with some of his graduate students.Agarwood is extremely rare and is the source of the world's most expensive incense. It's found only in the nearly extinct aquilaria trees growing in Southeast Asia and in certain parts of the world, it can be worth as much as $12,000 per pound or $20,000 per liter for the perfume extract in certain parts of the world. Agarwood is formed when aquilaria trees produce a resin as a defense mechanism against infection or injury causing its normally soft, white wood to become dark and hard. This resin-soaked wood is agarwood.Through research funded by the Rainforest Project Foundation, Professor Robert Blanchette developed a technique by which resin can be produced without permanently damaging a tree. This method of drilling holes in the trunks of aquilaria trees (hence, stimulating resin production around the wound) would allow countries to grow aquilaria trees as a sustainable agricultural commodity. "We hope to help save aquilaria trees from poaching in countries where people can make several year's salary from the agarwood found in just one tree," said Blanchette. "It's hard to imagine people in worse poverty than those in Vietnam. One of the goals is to give poor people in Southeast Asia a chance to raise agarwood as a crop, make a living through this renewable resource, and reduce the number of aquilaria trees taken from the wild," added Blanchette.
A local villager with aquilaria tree.Agarwood is highly valued in Asian and Middle Eastern cultures for its medicinal qualities, for its use in religious rituals, and as a perfume in countries like Japan, China, Yemen, and India. In Japan, many consider agarwood to be sacred and use it to anoint the dead. In the Buddhist religion, it is a key ingredient in many incense mixtures used to calm the spirit. Middle Eastern cultures see agarwood perfume as a status symbol. Local residents and Blanchette's group are planting 17,000 aquilaria trees in Vietnam this summer, and after three to four years they plan to harvest the agarwood. In the meantime, Blanchette continues to work on optimizing the ways agarwood is produced and harvested and plans to share what is learned in Vietnam with others. "We hope to take our techniques to other countries with aquilaria trees and help set up a cultivation process to try and save these trees there as well," said Blanchette.

Vietnam’s aloe wood draws foreign interest

Vietnam’s aloe wood draws foreign interest
17:30' 21/02/2005 (GMT+7)

Businesses from Japan, Laos and Thailand are interested in exploring the possibilities with the Vietnam Aquilaria Association (VAA) in growing, processing and marketing the Aquilaria Agallocha (aloe) wood tree.

The Japanese Organisation of Agricultural Development Associations (OADA) has agreed to fund the HCM City–based Phong Lan Company in opening a pavilion to sell artificial Aquilaria in Japan.

The VAA said it is seeking long-term and comprehensive contracts with businesses, both domestic and international, for developing the scented wood industry.

A centre for research and development of Aquilaria is in the making in Cu Chi District, on the outskirts of HCM City, where a 30ha nursery will be set up, the association announced.

Vietnam currently boasts an estimated 7,500ha of Aquilaria Agallocha trees in 23 provinces, expected to reach 30,000ha by 2010, according to the VAA.

Rare fragrant wood should be protected

Rare fragrant wood should be protected

The uncontrolled purchase of some of the most expensive fragrant wood in the world - agarwood (Aquilaria crassna) in central Vietnam demonstrates the need to conserve the valuable commodity.
Ba To moutain town in central Quang Ngai province has seen hundreds of people arrive in recent days to buy agarwood, called ky nam in Vietnamese, discovered by local lumberjacks.
However, as ky nam is banned for sale in Vietnam, most deals take place secretly and local residents sell the precious wood at low prices because they did not know about its real value.
At Tot village, one kilo of ky nam sold for only VND2 million (US$124.8) in the first days but its price later rose to VND10 million, then VND100 million and VND200 million ($12,488).
After transporting ky nam from the village, traders offered VND700 million ($43,709) for per kilo.
Stored by many as an asset, the wood is revered for its medicinal properties and aromatic essence.
Some traders said in sales abroad, mostly to Taiwan, Vietnamese agarwood would be 1.5 or two times higher than the domestic sales.
Those who find the precious wood in the forest must remain hidden to avoid the detection of forest rangers as they transport the wood for sale.
The current situation suggests the government should regulate the trade to improve the value of the precious wood on the world market, and control what commodities are left in the forest to make it a sustainable industry.
Since the country has already organized many auctions on recovered antiques, diamonds and bird’s nests (an Asian delicacy), perhaps agar could also be controlled through the auction process.
Reported by Dang Ngoc Khoa – Translated by Thu Thuy

Arab perfumes for a change

Arab perfumes for a change
THERE is nothing like a whiff of perfume to salve the tired soul, so Raghda Emad, 19, of Oud Al Anood (“The House of Good Smells”, in Arabic), believes.
“Arab people like to smell good,” says Raghda.
Raghda, an Iraqi who came to Malaysia when she was just three years old, says her family’s love affair with perfumes started nine years ago when her father, Emad Abdul Razak, 48, a former ship captain, decided to open a perfume factory in Kajang nine years ago. Today, the family-run business has four retail outlets.

A good wood perfume is black. “My father is the nose for Oud Al Anood. He spent three years searching for fragrant wood in South-East Asia and experimenting with perfumemaking in our home kitchen.
Even before that, everyone in my family was into perfumes.
“My mother always wore a flowery scent called Amirah, which means “princess” in Arabic, while my father prefers the strong smells of fragrant wood. For me, it’s the soft smells of vanilla,” she says.
The young perfumer’s training in the trade began when she started helping out in her father’s factory at age 14.

Elaborate perfume bottles.“I had to open each and every bottle and sniff the contents. Perfume comes in three categories: strong, medium and soft. The strong smells are usually from wood like gaharu, while the mediums are from flowers like rose and jasmine. Vanilla is one example of a soft smell,” she explains.
The shop carries 50 types of scents.
“Everything we use in our perfume oils is natural. There is no alcohol, which means that Muslims can use them during their prayers.”
According to Raghda, they carry two types of perfumes: wood oils and perfume blends of flowers and spices.
“All the wood oils are processed in our factory. The process requires cooking the wood to extract the oil. You can tell a good wood perfume by its colour, which should be black. They are so thick that it is impossible to put them in spray bottles.
“There is no such thing as a good wood oil going bad as they have no expiry date. In fact, the longer you keep it, the better.

Arabian favourites include canned sheep head, brains and feet, and non-alcoholic beer. — Starpix by SAMUEL ONG & GLENN GUANWe have a 12ml bottle of 20-year-old wood oil worth RM3,000,” she says.
Raghda says chemically made perfumes have a distinct smell of alcohol and don’t usually last. Some people are allergic to them.
“A good perfume, when applied properly can, last a whole day. Even if you were to dab a little behind your ears, it should carry you through for at least four hours,” she claims.
Oud Al Anood is just next to Hotel Malaysia in Jalan Bukit Bintang. For enquiries, call 012-2154601 (Emad Abdul Razak). Prices start at RM30.
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Vietnamese woodsmen find precious wood

Vietnamese woodsmen find precious wood

Authorities are probing reports that a group of lumberjacks in central Vietnam stumbled across 10 kilograms of precious agarwood (Aquilaria crassna), worth billions of dong on the market.
After being tipped off about the incident, several people from Ho Chi Minh City arrived in Quang Nam province’s Dai Loc district Monday afternoon to try and buy the wood.
But they left disappointed after someone told them that Tuan, leader of the group alleged to have found the wood, had immediately sold 9.8 kilograms to two men for just VND2.4 billion (US$150,000) or half the Vietnam market price.
Thanh Nien tried to contact Tuan but in vain. Its correspondents, however, met his colleagues who claimed each of them got just VND20 million-VND30 million ($1,250-$1,870) from the deal.
Nguyen Ngoc Dung, a local party official, told Thanh Nien that authorities were verifying the rumors.
“If they did discover a large quantity of agarwood, we would report this to our superiors,” he said. It is illegal to exploit the precious wood in Vietnam.
Last year another group of lumbermen were rumored to have found 100 kilograms of the wood. However, they claimed they found only a dozen kilograms.
Agarwood is among the most expensive woods in the world. It fetches VND500 million ($31,250) per kilogram in Vietnam and $50,000 in Taiwan.
Stored by many as an asset, the wood is revered for its medicinal properties and aromatic essence.
Reported by Dang Ngoc Khoa – Translated by Hoang Bao


Artificial Aloe Wood - Gold still in BrassPosted: Friday, May 26, 2006
Aloe wood, product of aquilaria crassna plants, has been considered to have a high economic value for a long time. A simple calculation even those who have just begun to do business with aloe wood know clearly is that growing 1,000 aquilaria crassna plants on a hectares after six years may earn farmers profits of VND 3 billion.

Those plants which do not create aloe wood or their parts, including trunks and roots can be sold at high prices for those who make fragrant incenses.
According to scientists, there are 28 aquilaria species, capable of creating aloe wood. The most precious species is aquilaria crassna, available in four countries only, but concentrate most in Vietnam. Many people say that Huong Khe district, Ha Tinh province, may be the craddle of the plant.
Cash crop
Following the owner of enterprise which was selected by UNCTAD/SIPPO as beneficiary for its support within a programme on BIOTRADE, focusing mainly on aloe wood, we arrived in Huong Khe. The first man we met was Dang Huu Lien, director of the management board of the Ngan Sau protective forest, who has much experience of aloe wood. Lien said that Ha Tinh, and Huong Khe in particular had been considered to be home to aloe wood. In the 1984-1990 period, the district exploited 80 tonnes of aloe wood (the figure may be much higher - reporter), which were mainly transported to Ho Chi Minh City before being exported to Taiwan. In the 1990s, aquilaria crassna in natural forests were all destroyed. Even small plants were chopped off and sold as materials for incense making. Many people understood about the value of the plant and brought it to their gardens and farms.

Dynamic as he is, Lien has grown the plant on some hectares. His plantation has grown 200 hectares. Taking us for a watch, Lien pointed a forest which would be used for farming aquilaria crassna. The plant has become a hot issue in Ha Tinh.

As Lien said, in Phuc Trach commune, most families have between tens and thousands of aquilaria crassna plants. We learnt that an aquilaria crassna plant, capable of providing aloe wood, is priced between VND 7 million and 10 million. At present, many families in Huong Khe have considered the plant as their cash crop. The older the plant is the higher profits its owner earns. Le Van Ba in Phuc Trach said that his family had 50 plants aged of over ten years and many people had asked him to sell them, but the man answered he waited until his children join universities to sell the plants.

Tran Van Vinh, who used to collect natural aloe wood, has shifted to trading aquilaria crassna plants. He was one of the first people to grow aquilaria crassna plants in gardens and farms. The man also buy plants in gardens of other people then transplant aloe wood creators to plants then wait until the time to return to harvest aloe wood. Many rich people in Phuc Trach have followed Vinh's method. However, there is still a risk. Vinh said he recently lost five aquilaria crassna plants after aloe wood creators were transplanted, costing him around VND 20 million. However, Vinh said that he would get partly back as he would sell the plants to those who collect incense materials.

"Unclear" standardVinh's failure is not strange as to create aloe wood remains mysterious, needing time to learn about. There are two ways to create aloe wood. The first is to use chemicals while the second is a biological method. However, any optimal method has not been found yet.
Nguyen Quang Than, one of a famous people in aloe wood business with around 30,000 aquilaria crassna plants in Da Nang, said that it took him four years to perfect know-how, so he could transplant in plants aged between three and four and have aloe wood after 18 months. He said that he would not give other people his know-how. However, he hinted that it would be good to use trunk of aquilaria crassna to cover the transplantation areas.
Apart from Than, owners of aquilaria crassna gardens said that they had their own methods. However, whether their products are aloe wood or what similar to aloe wood remains unclear. There are two popular methods to test. The first is to burn aloe wood and test via its fragrance. The second is to test basic substance of wood in laboratories. The first method is popular in Vietnam. However, there is an idea that resin created by chemical and biological methods could be used only for incense making. This has a ground as some companies in the Republic of Korea and India have declared not to buy aloe wood created by chemical and biological methods.
There is a question whether scientists should research to find the conditions for aloe wood to be formed naturally on aquilaria crassna plants.
In medicine, aquilaria crassna can be used for treating mental and heart diseases. In cosmetic industry, the plant is used to keep fragrance. Also, its wood can be used to make fine arts or jewellery items.

The biggest markets include Japan, Taiwan, the Republic of Korea, France and the Middle East.


Anything under the sun about Agarwood