Last weekend we watched a program on TV about a lucrative business growing sandalwood in Australia so later discussed whether much happens in Fiji about sandalwood these days. I did a search on the net and found out a little, and we need to do more research because wouldn't it be good if this could become a product - after ten years or so - for Fiji's farming community.
This is what I found out.
Sandalwood is called yasi in Fiji and also grows in Vanuatu and Tonga.The plant belongs to the Santalaceae family. The tree can grow to as high as 12m with trunks reaching 30cm in diameter. The tree is semiparasitic with the roots attaching to other host trees and providing water and some mineral nutrients. Accordingly, it is well adapted to periodic dry conditions. The flowers are rich pink to purplish red, and the fleshy fruits drupe turns from green to purple or reddish-violet when matured. The fruits and flowers are found throughout the year.
Sandalwood is an integral part of the history and ecology of Fiji.
The aromatic wood of yasi is highly prized and in the early 1800s American and English ships exploited the yasi in Vanua Levu, particularly Bua. They even called Vanua Levu Sandalwood Island. They damaged the plantations by chopping at the trees to obtain the rich oil base of the tree. Within thirty years the forests were decimated. I suppose the Fijians were given axes and trinkets. It is a sad tale of exploitation.
I wonder how much sandalwood still grows in Fiji. There certainly is some because I’ve seen girls with sandalwood dust in their hair at weddings and some products are made in Fiji using sandalwood. Are there any/many commercial ventures in specifically growing yasi. There was a conference in Nadi about it and trials and tests are done at places like Koronivia Research Station. One of our mataqali young men is interested in the possibility of starting a yasi plantation. The seedlings require other plants because they don’t grow alone. They are good for dry areas such as babasiga which is Macuata. They say that yasi grows in Bua Province, Dogotuki in Macuata, Kadavu; Ono-i-Lau; Lakeba; Oneata (Lau); and Nausori Highlands in Northwest Viti Levu. One company is registered in Labasa but an email only got a connection in China.