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Q. What is the difference between Indian and Australian Sandalwood?
A. Of the 15 different species of sandalwood that grow throughout the world, there are 2 main varieties that are traded internationally. These are Santalum Spicatum (Australian sandalwood) and Santalum album (Indian sandalwood). Australian sandalwood currently supplies well over half of all sandalwood traded around the globe annually. Australian sandalwood has historically been used in the incense-stick and incense markets in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong and most other Asian countries. It has been widely accepted in these areas for over 150 years. In recent years Australian sandalwood oil has been incorporated into many high end perfumes and other cosmetic products. Australian sandalwood does produce a lower oil content than Indian sandalwood although it consistently produces the oil forming heartwood from a very young age. Australian plantation sandalwood has been tried and tested in small plantations throughout WA for over 25 years by both private and Government organizations.
Q. Where else is Sandalwood being grown?
A. Western Australia currently has the largest sandalwood plantation resource in the world. Australian sandalwood is being grown in commercial plantations throughout the Wheat belt of Western Australia, and Indian sandalwood in the tropical far north of WA mainly in the Kununurra region within the Ord River Irrigation Area. There are however some small plantations of Indian sandalwood being grown in India and the Pacific Islands.
Q. How much oil does one tree produce?
A. Oil yield in sandalwood trees varies between species. The oil is present only within the heartwood of the tree. The older the tree, the larger percentage of heartwood exists within the tree therefore the more oil is present within a given tree. On average, Australian sandalwood produces between 3 to 3.5% oil within the heartwood and Indian sandalwood between 3.5 and 5%, in its lifetime.
Q. When can products first start to be harvested?
A. In regards to the wood itself, Australian sandalwood can be harvested in as little as 7 years of age for certain uses, although the quality of the wood is low due to the small amount of heartwood. As Australian sandalwood only begins heartwood formation at approximately year 5, the longer the tree is left to grow the more heartwood will be present resulting is a more valuable product. Commercially, Australian plantation sandalwood is harvested between the ages of 12 to 20 years.
Australian sandalwood also produces a valuable nut (seed) from the age of 4 years. The seed is currently valued between $30 and $50 per kg and some 5 year old trees have produced up to 2 kg per tree.
Q. When is the Sandalwood seed produced and what is it used for?
A. Australian sandalwood trees start producing seed from around 4 years of age. Currently, the main market is to supply the sandalwood plantation industry. The seed also has great potential within the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries as it has many unique properties within the kernel itself. It has very high levels of protein and may also be used as a food product.