Pacific Periscope

Fiji farmers plan to cash in on sandalwood

With a surge in worldwide demand for sandalwood products, particularly from the premium perfumery industry, Fiji farmers are training to help revive the country’s sandalwood farming, which has languished over the years.

Some 30 men and women attended a training programme on sandalwood forestry organised by the Fiji Government Department of Forestry’s, Silviculture Research Division last week.

The idea was to equip the participants with skills on sandalwood propagation, nursery practice, nursery management and cultivation with minimum external assistance.

“The interest in growing sandalwood in Fiji has been growing steadily, in the past three years we have been receiving requests from several villages around the country,” silviculturist Sanjana Lal said.

It takes 30 to 90 days to germinate sandalwood and four to six months to grow up to 20 to 30 centimeters. But growing sandalwood, which indeed is an ecofriendly pursuit, is becoming increasingly popular and much sought after in Fiji. A sandalwood tree in Lakeba sold for F$7,700 from a total hardwood weight of 259kg while a sandalwood tree in Bua brought in F$16,000 for the forester.

“Sandalwood is used worldwide in French perfumes, and the cosmetic industry, sandalwood paste is used in rituals and ceremonies, too,” Ms Lal said. The department plans to hold similar training sessions in other centres around the country.

Interest in sandalwood forestry around the islands is growing, with reports about plantation initiatives in Tonga.