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  • Writer's pictureJay Coakley

Why you shouldn’t use Red Sandalwood

Red Sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus) with other common names red sanders and saunderswood, is a species of Pterocarpus endemic. This is often and very easy to confuse with a normal Sandalwood species even thought it is a completely different genesis. Eastern markets commonly use this for Chinese medicine, treatment with digestive track problems, fluid retention and coughs. It’s also a product they heavily use in Chinese furniture.

Due to over exploitation over de the last two decades it has become an endangered species and now listed on the CITES format. The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), also known as the Washington Convention is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals. Due to this reason it is actually illegal to trade it around unless you have proper CITES certification. These days it is increasingly difficult to get a CITES certification because there are no plantations worldwide that grow Red Sandalwood. There are no mature trees from a plantation resource that are available to this day. So one can only harvest red sandalwood these days illigally. 

Grading of Sandalwood

Red Sandalwood mostly grows in semi-arid climatic conditions on fine grained sedimentary rock composed of mud and a mix of minerals. The semi-arid conditions gives it this distinctive wavy grain margin. Lumber pieces with the wavy grain margin get an "A" grade. Red Sandalwood with wavy grain margins sells at higher prices than the standard wood. Due to its wild nature and harsh life people consider it to be of greater age and quality. Generally plantation resources grow too quick and lack proper substance. This is easily visible by the growth rings or uniform grains within the timber.

Conservation Status

Pterocarpus santalinus was listed as an Endangered species by the IUCN, because of overexploitation for its timber in South India. However, it was later reclassified to Near Threatened in 2018, as the scale of this loss is not properly known. The appendix II of the CITES now lists it, which means that it will require a certificate to export it. They will only grant this if the trade is not detrimental to the survival of the species.

SS Champion does not deal in this timber, but is seeing a change in the market. There is a lack of availability and huge price increases in the Eastern Asian markets, that aggressively shift demand. Because of this people are looking into similar cheaper looking alternatives like p.angolensis found in west Africa. For advice on where to get quality Sandalwood: click here contact us

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