Oud Oil Farm

Oud Oil Farm

26 February, 2015
Rare Tree Visit
We check out a sustainable Aquilaria plantation in Hong Kong
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TIP: SPECIAL OFFER BELOW - FREE PLANTATION VISIT! 
 
Having lived in Hong Kong for almost fifteen years, and making a point of seeing some of its farthest-flung corners, I’m often amazed that there’s still always something new and special to discover in the territory I’ve adopted as home.
 
Recently I had the chance to join a visit to an Agarwood plantation with Asia Plantation Capital (APC), a company that is changing the face of forestry investment. It was an astonishing day of learning and appreciating the noble Aquilaria (Agarwood) tree. I never knew about this special tree and its vital link to Hong Kong!
 
On the day of the visit, I met up with Gerard McGuirk of APC at their office and showroom in Wan Chai; as we sped toward the New Territories in a van, he told me a little about the unique tree.
 
"Aquilaria trees have a unique quality; when the wood is cut, it becomes ‘infected’ and turns dark and fragrant, producing a headily scented oil called Oud. This oil, used for centuries in some cultures, is prized among perfumers and has recently experienced an upsurge in popularity. Meanwhile the wood itself, in varying grades depending on its saturation, can be made into incense or carved into ornate sculptures worth great sums – a popular outcome in China, where the wood is valued highly."
 
How highly? On the way to the plantation, we made an eye-opening pit stop at a country park. Gerard pointed out wild Aquilaria trees just off the marked trail that looked like they had been savagely attacked by a poor axeman. In fact, the trees had been chopped at by poachers – organised criminals who, under the cloak of night, chip away at the healthy wood to infect it. Months or years later, they return and lob off entire branches of rich, dark Agarwood, spiriting them away to Mainland China, where pieces have been sold for up to 100x the price of gold by weight!
 
In the broad light of day, it seemed unthinkable that people could just waltz into the woods and make off with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of product in one fell swoop. Yet it happens on a regular basis. On our visit, the bandits had been only a few nights before, leaving very fresh scars on the trees.
 
Agarwood was once commonly found in Hong Kong and across southern China, where it grows naturally. It was cultivated on plantations to meet the demand for joss sticks and raw oil as well as the beautiful, fragrant wood itself. In recent years, as Hong Kong became a finance centre above all else, rapid development and poaching have all but obliterated the tree that was once so important to the city that the very name “Hong Kong” – “Fragrant Harbour” – was endowed by its unique scent.
 
The plantation site, located within eyeshot of Guangzhou’s towering skyscrapers, is managed and run by Hong Kong’s self-proclaimed “Agarwood king”, Koon Wing Chan. He began planting Agarwood trees outside his local village around seven years ago, in order to safeguard the tree’s future existence and preserve its role in Hong Kong culture. Meanwhile, APC was looking for new plantation sites across Asia and voila –a partnership took root and has since grown from strength to strength.
 
“Our site in Hong Kong is unique in that it is was a pre-existing Agarwood farm, of sorts,” says Gerard. "Funds from APC have helped improve manpower availability, facilities and expand the farm to include strawberries, yams and other seasonal crops." The company’s plantation expertise has gelled perfectly with Mr Chan’s passion and experience to create a thriving farm, with Agarwood trees now growing at all stages of development. There’s such a flourishing supply that visitors are welcome to take a sapling home for free, and plant it in a suitable area of Hong Kong as a conservation effort.
 
APC also owns similar sustainably and organically managed plantations in other parts of Asia, and offers the chance to invest in them, with a healthy financial return upon harvest - at which point, Oud oil is extracted from the matured  and used in perfumes made by Fragrance Du Bois, among others – a destiny befitting the wood that gave Hong Kong its famous moniker. 
 
SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY FOR ECOZINE READERS - FREE PLANTATION VISIT!
 
We enjoyed this unique experience so much, we want to share it with you! By clicking the link below, lucky Ecozine readers can join the next trip FREE! (normal rate: HK$150)
Visit details: 
See and learn about Hong Kong’s last iconic Agarwood trees!
- Saturday, March 14th, 9:30am - 2:30pm
- Departing from APC Wan Chai office (18/F, Jubilee Centre,18 Fenwick Street)
- Includes transport, light refreshment and a small gift.
****Register FREE here - limited space available****
 

By: Nissa Marion
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