Over the last few years, award-winning, sustainable plantation management company, Asia Plantation Capital, has been actively working with the only remaining agarwood plantation in Hong Kong. Its aim was to keep alive part of the territory’s natural heritage. The species, Aquilaria Sinensis, from which agarwood is derived, is the tree that originally brought Hong Kong its famous name – ‘Fragrant Harbour’ – with the city serving as a regional supplier of scents after becoming the Asian hub for aromatic affairs.
Since 2014, Asia Plantation Capital has been involved in a joint venture with Mr Chan Koon Wing, a third generation agarwood farmer who owns the last remaining commercial Aquilaria Sinensis plantation in Hong Kong. The plantation, situated near the village of Shing Ping and Ping Che in Hong Kong’s New Territories, currently has approximately 6,000 trees that were planted since 2009, and the aim is to sustain and preserve this endangered species. The strategic partnership between Asia Plantation Capital and Mr Chan provides the necessary support and expertise required to develop long-term commercial opportunities in Hong Kong and its surrounding areas, on an ethical and sustainable basis.
Mr Chan’s plantation was inherited from his grandfather, who started planting Aquilaria Sinensis many years ago. After a lengthy period working abroad, Chan returned to Hong Kong in 2009 to revive the plantation. Hong Kong, once abundant with Aquilaria trees, has been facing the threat from illegal loggers and poachers, as the demand for agarwood in Mainland China has increased exponentially in recent years. These poachers have been known to pose as hikers, slashing the trees indiscriminately to instigate a resin infection, and then returning in the middle of the night to chop them down. It is the inner heartwood of the Aquilaria tree that yields the much-coveted and highly-prized treasure, Oud – a magical and mystical substance that has had cultural and religious significance for billions of people, and is now one of the most sought after ingredients in the modern fragrance world.
Last week, Chan paid a visit to Singapore and Malaysia to visit Fragrance Du Bois’ luxurious flagship boutiques at The Fullerton Hotel in Singapore, and the Starhill Gallery in Kuala Lumpur, before being hosted at some of the plantations owned and managed by Asia Plantation Capital. His trip included a tour of the region’s largest agarwood processing factory in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and one of the plantations in Keru, Negeri Sembilan, located south of Kuala Lumpur. These are the plantations that grow the exact same Aquilaria Sinensis species that is to be found on Chan’s plantation in Hong Kong.
Chan commented, “I am extremely impressed by Asia Plantation Capital’s growth. The amount of research and development invested into their plantations is remarkable. Oud oil has not been produced in Hong Kong for more than a century, but with the help of Asia Plantation Capital, I am hoping to change that by developing a small distillery in the future. The purpose-built agarwood factory and research centre in Johor has state of the art facilities, and it would be my dream to be able to replicate them in Hong Kong. What’s more,” he concluded, “the company is a pioneer in the industry, cultivating agarwood since 2009, and is known to be the market leader in terms of scientific knowledge and the techniques required to stimulate the resinous heartwood by inoculation. There is so much for me to learn and take away from this visit, and I’m certain this will not only benefit our partnership, but also our goals in developing and growing sustainable agarwood in the region.”
“All our joint ventures, or partnerships, have been strategically selected to ensure that our goals are commonly aligned,” said Steve Watts, Asia Plantation Capital’s CEO, Asia Pacific. “Also, as part of our dedication and commitment to ‘holistic sustainability’, Asia Plantation Capital strongly believes in involving itself in the community. In this case, our aim is to protect this endangered species, and help Chan produce Oud oil in Hong Kong. We believe that this plot of land has more than mere monetary value. It’s clear that Chan has a sentimental attachment to the species and to his family plantation,” Watts concluded, “and we’re delighted to be able to lend our expertise to manage the plantation jointly with him, one tree at a time.”
The Aquilaria tree is listed under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) to protect and safeguard for future generations a species that has been over-exploited and harvested to the point of near extinction. Asia Plantation Capital ensures that all Aquilaria trees are grown sustainably and that its end-products (Oud oil, wood chips and beads, etc.) are certified by the relevant authorities and are produced in an ethical, renewable and sustainable manner.