Sandalwood has known to be used by different civilisations for over 3,000 years. Up until the start of the 19th century no one knew there was sandalwood in the Pacific and Australia, other than the Chinese expeditions led by the famous eunuch admiral, Zheng He in the 15th century. Trading Houses were desperate to find a commodity to trade with China for the growing demand for tea in Europe and particularly England. There was a serious imbalance in trade. In 1811-19 the total value of goods imported by the East India Company to England from China was over 72 million pounds. Tea accounted for over 70 million pounds. In the 1800s, traded sandalwood was sourced mainly from India and was labelled “Old Mountain” by the Chinese.
When the first shipment of 4 tonnes of WA sandalwood was exported to Singapore on the sailing ship SS Champion by WA settlers in 1844, it became globally recognised as a valuable commodity and thus became known as “New Mountain”. This first shipment saw the birth of the “New Mountain” Sandalwood industry. This shipment received $20 per tonne.
In the 19th century sandalwood was Western Australia’s second largest export. In 1882 the colony exported 9,605 tonnes and earned $192,000. In 1920 a total of 13,945 tonnes were export at a value of $467,000.
The Royal Wood
Sandalwood is a fragrant timber and its distinctive aroma comes from oil contained in the heartwood.
In Australia, we have many species of Santalum (sandalwood). There are two main ones that are harvested. Santalum lanceolatum which grows throughout Australia except Tasmania and southern Victoria and Santalum spicatum which grows in Western Australia and parts of western South Australia.
Santalum spicatum is a desert tree and as a result is much slower growing. The oil has a different, less heady aroma and has become the preferred wood for incense manufacturing across Asia. It is a big part of the Asian culture and the wood is commonly used to make joss sticks for the incense trade. India alone consumes 500 million incense (argabatti) sticks per day.
Internationally sandalwood has been one of the most valued woods for centuries, prized for its oil and burning properties as well as its medicinal characteristics. Sandalwood oil is essential in the formula of all leading perfumes, soaps and cosmetics. Approximately 150 tonnes of santalum oil is produced per annum worldwide.
It was first declared a 'Royal Tree' in 1792 by Tippu Sultan the general turned ruler of Mysore. He is largely considered the saviour of sandalwood in India for issuing a royal decree for every sandalwood tree to be a crown property. His grave is located in Sri Rangapatnam near Mysore, which is covered from a tiger skin. His sword, once lost in a battle with Kerala kings was later found in London. A few years back Mallaya the owner of Kingfisher beer company bought the sword in an auction for an unknown price. There are numerous portraits of Sultan and also a stamp issued in 1974 by India Post .
Sustainability of a valuable resource
The sandalwood tree is a parasite. It needs nutrients and water from host plants to survive. Growth is very slow for the sandalwood tree but becomes higher in oil yield as it gets older. A sandalwood tree growing in the arid can take over 100 years before it can be harvested. The tree is harvested as either green wood or dead wood.
Value of Sandalwood
Realising the value of this precious commodity and the need to sustain it, the Western Australian government introduced the Sandalwood Act in 1929 which strictly controls harvesting and replanting. And ensures regeneration and sustainability of the sandalwood industry. It means that only a percentage of sandalwood can be harvested each year. Forest Products Commission (FPC) has developed operation Woylie which has proven to be very successful in re-establishment of the natural Sandalwood in the range lands. FPC has contractors that plant 10 to 12 tonne of selected seed each year in the rangelands in a short opportune window of sowing. All of the State's harvested sandalwood comes from natural arid rangelands of Western Australia.
The State’s sandalwood resources is governed by the Department of Protection and Wildlife (DPAW) and harvested by the FPC on behalf of the State.
FPC is the largest supplier of "wild" sandalwood in the world. Western Australia is the only region in the world that can guarantee harvest of approximately 2,000 tonnes of sandalwood each year on a sustainable basis so that there will be a planned stable market for future generations.
Wescorp Sandalwood Pty Ltd is the sole processor, marketer and exporter of Santalum spicatum for FPC. Santalum spicatum is responsible for the supply of over 50% of Santalum to the trading world. This puts us as a market leader in supplying the world.
New Mountain Sandalwood
For centuries, Indian Sandalwood was called “Old Mountain” by the Chinese. When the Australian Sandalwood became globally recognised as a valuable commodity, the Chinese began calling it ‘New Mountain”. New Mountain Merchants belongs to Wescorp Group which supplies the world market with over 50% of traded sandalwood.
Natural Mosquito Repellent
From our past research with the government, we knew that sandalwood was an effective mosquito repellent, used by our indigenous people in ancient times by burning the bark, wood and the leaves. They also used it for medicinal purposes.
New Mountain Sandalwood developed a natural mosquito repellent using pure deadwood spicatum – sandalwood that has naturally died in the desert. Sandalwood Mosquito Sticks are the only chemical free, environmentally friendly, natural mosquito repellent on the market that is safe for children and pets. We transferred the ancient tradition used by the Aborigines into a stick so it won’t break and is easy to use. They smell beautiful and the calming properties of sandalwood means enjoyment, worry free, in the outdoors whilst keeping the mosquitoes at bay.
Sandalwood as a natural alternative
Combining the elements of moon and water, sandalwood and sandalwood oil is renowned for its spiritual, therapeutic and healing properties. Sandalwood oil has been used to treat conditions such as anxiety, respiratory infection and sleep disorders. It assists in relaxing the muscles and has been used for centuries in meditation and prayer.
New Mountain Sandalwood has pure oil and other calming sandalwood products available.
Threats to the Sandalwood industry
With shortages of sandalwood in the world caused by unregulated and unsustainable harvesting in regions outside Western Australia, the manufacturers of sandalwood products are using synthetic oils and often chemical fillers in products and calling them sandalwood. The end users are not recognising the true quality of natural sandalwood. Incorrect labelling of products is deceiving the public. With approximately 6,000 tonne of sandalwood harvested each year, and approximately 300,000 tonne of end sandalwood products produced each year, there are obviously large substitution and deceitful practices in the industry.