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Sandalwood industry gets a welcome boost

THE amount of sandalwood processed into value-added products in WA next year is expected to double.

Albany-based Mt Romance has been given an extra 250 tonnes of sandalwood – taking its total processing stock to 500 tonnes.

The extra wood – largely from the Goldfields – is part of a stockpile held for export.

Mt Romance will process the wood to create cosmetic, therapeutic and aromatic oils.

Sandalwood oil is highly valued for its medicinal and fixative properties.

However, the oil Mt Romance produces is drawn from the WA variety of sandalwood tree and not the more internationally accepted Indian variety.

The WA variety has a much lower concentration of santalol – the active ingredient in sandalwood – than the Indian variety.

Oil from Indian sandalwood is used in internationally renowned scents such as Calvin Klein’s Eternity and Chanel Number 5.

There are some operations attempting to grow Indian sandalwood in irrigated land near the Ord River in the Kimber-ley.

The Indian sandalwood stands are coming under threat from bandits, poor husbandry practices and disease.

Indian sandalwood currently sells for around $40,000 a tonne while WA sandalwood sells for about $6,500.

Mt Romance managing director Stephen Birkbeck said he had been forced to keep educating the market to accept WA sandalwood oil as a substitute for the Indian product.

That education effort appears to have borne fruit. The company is understood to have secured agreements to provide sandalwood oil to Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and Calvin Klein.

Mt Romance is selling its sandalwood oil into the Parisian perfume industry, the UK, US, Spain, Singapore and Taiwan and has had some spasmodic success in the Middle East.

Forestry and Fisheries Minister Kim Chance said the Forest Products Commission was trialling methods and techniques aimed at developing sandalwood as a tree crop in the Wheatbelt.

A target of 200 hectares of sandalwood will be planted under arrangements with farmers during the next few months.

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