About Agarwood

 The “Wood of the Gods”

What is Agarwood?

Not out of laziness, but rather in the interests of accuracy we encourage the reader to take in the wikipedia entry here.

There is no forest product we can think of that has been the subject of so much fevered speculation. Here’s what we know about it :

  • The agarwood product is formed when a healthy tree of the Aquilaria species is infected by a number of different fungal, bacterial, and possibly even viral pathogens. The rout of infection would logically be through either insect damage or trauma to the tree during heavy weather.
  • The pathogens have been (in our opinion) poorly characterized, and in fact vary greatly from region to region, even in Myanmar.
  • Once the pathogens have invaded the layers of tree bark and are attacking the tree’s heartwood, that material which is known as agar wood is formed is mobilized and formed as part of the tree’s immune response.
  • Thousands of individual farmers and a dozen or so formed plantation companies around Southeast Asia have been attempting to grow Aquilaria trees of one species or another, thence proceeding to “inoculate” them to induce formation of agar wood in otherwise healthy trees.
  • Although there are a few companies selling various costly potions used in the inoculation process, some even patented, in our experience most small planters in Myanmar swear by their own proprietary mixtures.
  • It must be noted that the trade of wild agar wood is strictly controlled under the auspices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which Myanmar is a signatory.

Into the Wild

Aquilaria in Myanmar

Aquilaria trees of various species are encountered in the wild all over Myanmar, but the trees overwhelming prefer the wetter areas south of about 17º north latitude and north of 23º north latitude. Although attempts are being made at sizable plantations in areas in the drier parts of Myanmar, unless the plantations are heavily endowed with the infrastructure for generous irrigation, the attrition and mortality during the dry seasons approach as much as 50% of trees within 24 months of planting.

Kachin State in the far north is the range of large numbers of wild A.Malaccensis trees, and this is the preferred seed stock for Agarwin-Keystone’s nurseries and plantations located in Yangon Division.

As far as we can ascertain, Myanmar’s government began to encourage smallholders to plant Aquilaria trees as early as 2004, as a rural incomes development scheme. In Kachin State what we see is that in the larger towns many families moving down from the hills planted trees as they built their homes and established ethnic enclaves of different nationalities, starting as early as the mid-1990’s. In these cases the trees have been maintained in a healthy state due to the care given to small plots by farmers and householders occupying the land.

A sizable number of wealthy city-dwellers, all with access to cash and lands began to set up larger plantations in the mid to late 2000’s. Some of these plantations covered hundreds of acres and planted tens of thousands of trees. The general trend, especially if the lands were acquired from government sources on favorable terms, was to quickly plant not only Aquilaria, but also rubber, sandalwood, Acacia, and other species. One reason for doing this was to meet the stated requirement to cultivate 100% of the granted parcel within 5 years. In many cases we have seen that large holdings are hereafter neglected, no farmers are on the land, and no additional investment has been made to irrigate, fertilize, or mitigate risks resulting from fire, flood, or extremely adverse weather.

Get in Touch with Us

We have headquarters in Yangon, Myanmar

No. 258 Bagayar Road
Sanchaung, Yangon

Phone: +95 94500 21231 (English)

+95 9511 7226, +95 979 1931 786 (Myanmar)

Email inquiries: info@agarwin-keystone.com
Business inquiries: rkwalsh@agarwin-keystone.com

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