$500m scent of Fijian sandalwood

Villagers of Tabia in Macuata are also planting sandalwood. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

THE Ministry of Forests has completed mapping more than 50,000 sandalwood plants in farms across Vanua Levu, Viti Levu, Kadavu and Lomaiviti valued about $500 million.

Undertaken by the ministry’s sandalwood development department, research officer Maika Daveta said they were continuing the mapping exercise to ascertain the number of trees in farms around the country.

Mr Daveta said the plants already surveyed were one to eight years old and would mature in the next 19 to 28 years.

“Sandalwood heartwood takes 20 to 30 years to mature and we are expecting a sandalwood export boom in the years between 2038 or 2048 when these plants mature,” he said.

“By the time these trees mature, they should find a raw price of $10,000 per tree in the market.

“This is one of the main reasons that the ministry had implemented this department to build up its resources with the aim of enabling Fiji to produce and sell its own sandalwood oil.

“For this, we will need the right machines to enable us to produce our own oil which is way expensive than the raw products.”

Mr Daveta said it was too early to give an overall picture of the industry’s potential until the mapping exercise had been completed.

Earlier, forest conservator Sanjanna Lal said the ministry was yet to identify the exact markets Fiji’s sandalwood ended up in, adding it was mostly to Taiwan, China and Korea.

Ms Lal said these markets then sold the sandalwood oil to global perfume brands such as Chanel which did not recognise the products as Fijian made.

However, Ms Lal said if Fiji developed the oil as its own, it could then be patented and sold as a local brand to global perfume manufacturers.

She said Fiji’s sandalwood oil was more fragrant than the Indian sandalwood oil, adding it would take a few years to develop it as a commodity.

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