Sandalwood giant Quintis celebrates record harvest in Western Australia’s Ord Valley

The world’s largest producer of Indian sandalwood is on track to complete its largest ever commercial harvest in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

By the end of this month, Quintis will have harvested 256 hectares of exotic timber in Ord’s irrigation program, approximately 3,200 kilometers north of Perth.

Sandalwood Santalum album is highly prized for its aromatic wood and oil, but an unscrupulous black market has decimated India’s wilderness areas.

Quintis CEO Richard Henfrey said the harvest stage was the culmination of more than two decades of hard work to establish a sustainable source of Indian sandalwood in northern Australia.

“There is a great interest in being able to source this product in volumes that we can supply that are ethical, legally grown and traceable,” he said.

“We expect the yield per hectare and the amount of kilograms of heartwood to increase dramatically over the next two years.”

The operators of this tree feller can fell a new Indian sandalwood tree every 30 to 40 seconds, or at a rate of about 1000 trees per day during harvest.(

Provided: Quintis

)

A record harvest

The 2021 harvest included trees from a managed investment program that will be tendered, as well as trees owned by Quintis.

From his Packsaddle plantation, logs are trucked to the nearby Kununurra processing facility, where the sweet scent of sandalwood wafts through the air as it is dried, graded and fed by equipment. of grinding.

Three men with helmets posing around a tree feller
Quintis CEO Richard Henfrey with WA Regional Manager Troy Sawyer on a site visit to the Packsaddle Plantation.(

ABC Kimberley: Courtney Fowler

)

Following the tendering process, much of the high-quality lumber purchased by Quintis will be trucked more than 3,500 kilometers south to the company’s facilities in Mount Romance near Albany, which home to the world’s largest sandalwood oil distillery.

Often described as “liquid gold,” nearly half of all perfumes contain sandalwood oil, which has sold for up to $ 300,000 per tonne on the world market in recent years.

Mr Henfrey said that while the fragrance industry suffered during the coronavirus pandemic, there was an increasing demand for their product for traditional Chinese medicines and religious crafts.

Earlier this year, Quintis signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s largest maker of traditional medicines, Lanzhou Foci Pharmaceuticals, a state-owned company listed on the ShenZhen Stock Exchange.

A man sanding a log of Indian sandalwood
Each Indian sandalwood log is carefully graded and sanded to reveal the precious heartwood inside.(

ABC Kimberley: Courtney Fowler

)

Growth in the wellness industry

Mr Henfrey, who has spent more than a decade with vitamin company Blackmores, said he believes Quintis will continue to expand its presence in the global “wellness” industry.

“We have very mature markets such as fine perfumery and aromatherapy [but] we see, in terms of growth, the opportunity for our oil and potentially our powders to enter more western cosmetics and medicine, ”he said.

“But we have to tell this story to the cosmetics industry and to the brands that are ultimately going to put it in their products.”

Photo of a signing ceremony in front of a blue sign with Chinese writing
The Chinese medicine market is a major growth industry for Indian sandalwood exports.(

Provided: Quintis

)

A new chapter for Quintis

Quintis manages over 12,000 hectares of plantations in Northern Australia and employs over 150 people in its forestry operations in WA, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

The company has established key markets around the world, including Australia, China, Europe, India, Korea, Japan and the United States.

Since the first harvest in 2013, over 500 hectares of Indian sandalwood have been harvested in the Ord Valley and that number would increase dramatically as they worked to expand harvesting operations over the next five years.

A large stack of logs inside a shed
Quintis harvested 30,000 Indian sandalwood trees from 100 hectares last year.(

Provided: Quintis

)

Mr Henfrey said it was a new era for Quintis, more than three years after the sandalwood giant canceled important contracts, halted operations and fell under administration.

In October 2018, it recapitalized as a private company, resumed harvesting operations and completed a rebranding and leadership change, while defending several lawsuits and the attempted buyout of several sandalwood plantations. managed by Quintis and headed by the founder and former boss of the company, Frank Wilson.

Meanwhile, Mr Wilson was this week battling civil lawsuits brought by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in Federal Court over insider trading allegations made after his tenure as a director of Quintis – a claim which he firmly denied.

But despite a turbulent past, the company is now resolutely turned towards the future.

A tractor leveling farmland in the Ord
Quintis will plant new Indian sandalwood trees in the Ord next year for the first time since its recapitalization in 2018.(

ABC Kimberley: Courtney Fowler

)

Create a sustainable future

Eighteen months after holding the most senior position at Quintis, Mr. Henfrey is confident that the Indian sandalwood industry will continue to be an important crop in Northern Australia.

“There have been challenges in the past, but I think we overcame them and really focused on bringing the product to market,” he said.

“The idea here is to manage a sustainable size field that gives us the products we need to serve a growing, high value-added global market.

“We have good momentum in the market right now, so I’m probably feeling more positive than at any time in my barely 18 months.”

A man holding and looking at a sandalwood log
Indian sandalwood is highly prized for its precious wood and oil around the world.(

ABC Kimberley: Courtney Fowler

)

Main competitor Santanol, owned by global forestry giant Mercer International, was also due to produce up to 10,000 kg of Indian sandalwood oil this year, having achieved its own record harvest in the Ord in 2020.

The two companies were exploring new ways to make forestry in the region more sustainable, including creating a biochar product made from leftover biomass to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve soil health.

Mature trees absorb 21 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year; Quintis has estimated that its trees remove more than 115,000 tonnes of CO2 from the Earth’s atmosphere each year.

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