According to Brent Clegg, Director of Touchwood the "local" Agarwood industry is "whopping" and his output of tress farmed in Thailand will be targeting the Arabian market. "It's both an interesting and green story including a turn from a deforestation pattern in parts of Thailand towards a forestation pattern and a boon to local villagers benefiting from employment," he said.
What's the catch? "Well I would call it a Private Equity deal and therein lie the usual disclaimers: seek independent legal advice and understand the risk. However, because it is an unregulated agricultural investment it might not attract regulators' attention in some parts where trees are not considered to be 'securities'."
Still, like any investment purchase caveat emptor applies (let the buyer beware). From an investment angle, Clegg says that Touchwood targets "10 per cent of portfolios and 20 per cent annual returns"...
The tree stock consists of: Agarwood, the world's most expensive resinous wood. Touchwood has pat-ented a process supported by Dr Robert Blanchette and Dr Joel Jurgens, both of the University of Minnesota. Their process amounts to the injection of a serum into the Aquilaria Tree after three years of its life and over the following three years it produces Agarwood. The main markets for it are the Arabian peninsula for perfumes and China for herbal medicines.
As an inhabitant of the Pacific Northwest, I've harbored a fantasy that the process by which agarwood becomes kyara could be introduced into trees local to the temperate rain forests here (I have no idea how far-fetched this is, other than that there are temperate-forest cousins of agarwood, if I'm not mistaken).
Why have I harbored this fantasy?
- Agarwood - or aloeswood - promotes good meditation practice.
- The best varieties - "kyara" (伽羅) - are the most amazing thing you ever smelled in your life.
- And therefore they're worth significantly more than gold even at today's prices. If you don't believe me check out Shoyeido's online store here. Those bundles at the bottom of the page ain't your hippie's Nag Champa...
Well, I guess it was only a matter of time before somebody else did the "cultured pearls thingy" to agarwood...
And yes, this is an absurd way for resources to be used, except for the fact that some recognition of a sacred space is not in and of itself a bad thing.