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Western Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) is a slow-growing hemiparasitic, long-living small tree that occurs naturally in the southern half of the State. The species extends south from Karijini National Park to the coast and east towards the border of South Australia. Natural stands of sandalwood were common in what is now the Rangelands.

The sandalwood industry is one of the oldest export industries in the State. The first exports were recorded in 1844, and at one time, wild Western Australian sandalwood provided 30 per cent of the State's export income.

There is a strong demand for Western Australian sandalwood due to the aromatic oils found in mature wood and the reduced supply from alternative sources. It has been traditionally used in Asia for incense and joss sticks for religious purposes (known as the "agarbatti" market). Since 1998 the use of Western Australian sandalwood has broadened to include the local production of oil for the use in perfume and pharmaceutical markets which supply many premium brands.

The traditional markets of Hong Kong and China continue to be the largest consumers of Western Australian sandalwood, mainly for the manufacture of incense and joss sticks. Demand for our sandalwood continues to grow with new markets developing in Malaysia, Singapore, India and Thailand.

Interest in this industry continues to grow as demand and awareness of this valuable timber increases. In May 2014, the sandalwood industry was the subject of the Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on Environment and Public Affairs Report 35: Inquiry into the Sandalwood Industry in Western Australia. This review made a number of recommendations towards improving the future regulation and sustainability of the industry - review of the Sandalwood Order 1996 (harvest limits)regeneration, licensing, illegal harvesting and reassessment of the current industry structure. The FPC is currently working collaboratively with the Department of Parks and Wildlife and stakeholders across the State towards addressing these recommendations.

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