Sandalwood: the sweet-smelling secret from WA

By AG Staff 26 February 2013
Reading Time: < 1 Print this page
The woody scent of joss sticks, exotic balms and Chanel Noº5 may soon come – not from the Orient – but from Kununurra.

DESIRED AROUND THE world for its sensually sweet aroma, sandalwood has a new international production centre: Western Australia.

While WA has native Australian sandalwood, it has in recent years become home to the world’s biggest plantations of Indian sandalwood, prized commercially for its high oil content. Demand for sandalwood oil in perfumes, traditional medicine and joss sticks is growing fast, but demand from Asia has struggled to keep up.

Tropical Forestry Services (TFS), based near Kununurra, have taken advantage of a gap in the market. TFS was founded in the late 1990s after government trials showed Indian sandalwood could be grown in the Ord River Irrigation Area.

The company’s first planting was in 1999 and it now manages the largest area of Indian sandalwood plantation in the world, with approximately 5500ha planted on the Ord River plain and at Kingston Rest farm, 60km south of Kununurra.

The first major harvest of mature trees, those approaching 15 years, is expected to take place in 2013.

Read the full story in issue 113 (Mar/Apr) of the Australian Geographic journal.