Securing sandalwood: Demand for sustainability and quality boosts Australia’s dominance

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Photo by from Pexels
Photo by from Pexels
Increasing demand for high-quality sustainable sandalwood oil will continue to increase Australia’s global market share, with India’s slice of the sector set to slip.

According to Natalia Nizkopoklonnova, business development manager of APAC for Down Under Enterprises, Australia currently supplies 80% of the world’s sandalwood.

“With India’s supply of sandalwood going down, Australian sandalwood will rise because of its quality and its sustainability.”

The Sydney-based firm supplies natural Australian oils has considered itself one of the major suppliers of traceable and sustainable Australian sandalwood oil.

Nizkopoklonnova estimates that the firm supports around 60% of sandalwood exports in the country.

Overtaking India as biggest supplier

Historically, India has been the biggest player in sandalwood. However, exploitation and lack of control has led to a decline in sandalwood production in the country.

“A lot of sandalwood used to come from India but it has been overharvested. These trees are cut down and not replanted,” ​said Nizkopoklonnova.

She added: “If the government doesn't control supplies efficiently, eventually it can dry out. There's a lot of illegal activities happening underground.”

Nizkopoklonnova commented that Australia was now the leading supplier of sandalwood oil thanks to these government initiatives.

In Australia, the sandalwood is highly regulated by the Government of Western Australia’s Forestry Products Commission (FPC), which controls over 90% of the annual harvests.

“We don’t just harvest, we also support replanting. This is very important. To get good quality oil, you need to harvest a mature tree that’s around 30 years old and when we harvest we basically use the whole tree, roots and all.”

With the help of FPC, Down Under is able to trace the origin of its sandalwood oil back to its source of origin.

Additionally, the FPC has a role in conserving the population of woylies, a small marsupial that has a critical role in sandalwood seed dispersal.

Other than conservation, it has also designed a mechanical process to mimic the woylie’s seed dispersal, which is now part of an annual regeneration program.

Each year, this operation helps to disperse more than five million seeds across 20,000 hectares of land.

The essential oil

Sandalwood plays a vital role in the cosmetics industry. According to Nizkopoklonnova, sandalwood is present in 60% of perfumes.

“People see it as a premium ingredient and you can find it a lot in luxury skin care. It’s a good base for mixing as well. It’s really an essential essential oil.”

As the issue of sustainability and traceability continue to rise, Nizkopoklonnova believes cosmetic companies will continue to seek sandalwood oil from Aussie suppliers like Down Under.

“We are seeing a big shift toward sustainability and quality. People do not want to compromise. In Asia, the market used to be more price driven. This is evolving and we are seeing a lot of companies looking for sustainable ingredients because they want to send the right messages to their consumers.”

Another challenge that many companies face is getting high-quality sandalwood oil and many turn to Australia for is reputation for quality and safety.

“It can be very difficult to get good quality sandalwood. You can easily find adulterated sandalwood that has added chemicals.

“In recent years, we’ve definitely seen an increase in demand for Australian ingredients. Mainly because people know that Australian ingredients. People know Australian ingredients are high in quality, clean and come from pristine environments.”

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