There are over 80 different species in the Santalum genus but only two are predominantly used commercially in today's global markets - Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) and West Australian (WA) sandalwood (Santalum spicatum).
Currently both species account for around 90% of the world's traded sandalwood but in recent times have both faced supply problems due to over harvesting. However this is set to change as we enter the next few years.
Australian (Santalum spicatum) is a desert type of tree native to Australia and found predominantly in the middle and southern parts of Western Australia.
Since the late 1990s many long-term plantations have been established covering around 15,000 hectares. Plantings are set to continue at 1-2,000 hectares per annum. These will be harvested when the trees reach an optimum maturity but not before they are 15-20 years old (some will be this age very soon).
Sandalwood is obtained through steam distillation of powdered sandalwood many from the lower parts of the tree with the better quality oil coming from the butts and roots.
Though there are apprehensions about the future, harvesting of the sandalwood has been under way since March and should continue until November, which will mark the end of the season. The market seems to be at an equilibrium with existing supplies matching the demand. Endeavours to augment oil production have been shelved for the moment.
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