HISTORY OF SANDALWOOD
Global trade in sandalwood (timber and related products from the genus Santalum) has been well documented for over one thousand years with references to its spiritual and therapeutic use across Asia with 25 known species found across Australasia, Indomalaya and Oceania ecozones.
For the last couple of hundred years, demand for sandalwood has focused in particular on Western Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum). Australia became a major exporter of sandalwood to Asia in the 19th Century with early European settlers exporting up to 14,000 tonnes of Western Australian sandalwood per year from Fremantle Port.
More recently, global demand for sandalwood has grown rapidly driven by an increasing population and income, in particular in Asia. This demand has resulted in a significant depletion of all sources of naturally occurring wild sandalwood. This depletion has led to the protection of sandalwood in most countries where it naturally occurs. Regulations governing the harvest, trade and processing of sandalwood derived from wild stands have been broadly introduced. Despite this protection, the decline of remnant sandalwood has continued with an insufficient natural resource to satisfy global demand.
The evolution of a plantation industry offers the solution to provide an environmentally sustainable supply for the long term.