Posted on: October 19, 2020 Posted by: admin Comments: 0

How to determine agarwood grade?

Agarwood has many grades and goes by countless different names in both the sourcing and consuming countries. The different grades and classes of agarwood result from long-standing grading practices adopted by the people of each
country. No standard method is available partly due to the intricacy during the hierarchical process of selling and buying. The foremost reason is the appearance of the traded agarwood itself, which can come in many forms from raw, such as chips, blocks, and flakes, to finished products such as oil, incenses, perfumes, accessories, and carvings. Agarwood in raw forms is of mixed quality; thus, the price and grade depend on this blended appearance. As the product is passed down from collectors to various levels of traders and finally to the buyers, the grade can be readjusted and the price inflated or understated depending on the interest. Therefore, buyers, traders, and collectors heavily rely upon time-honored trust when concluding a business deal. Authorities have not found the formula to standardize the grading system of agarwood trade, and this leads to the lack of coordination and regulation at international level. Nevertheless, several sourcing and consuming countries have made the effort to grade their agarwood according to their own local market, which can be used as a benchmark in formulating a more contemporary method that could be acceptable to all countries.

Agarwood is a highly valuable commodity that has been traded in many parts of the world for hundreds of years. Overexploitation of the wild mother tree from which agarwood is derived affects regeneration of the young tree. As a result, Aquilaria and Gyrinops, the two major agarwood-producing genera, are currently listed under CITES protection (CITES 2014). Because agarwood (a bio-product from plant metabolism) is the outcome of a complex relationship between the tree host, infecting agent and environment, often the ensuing agarwood is of inconsistent quality. Even when induced in planted trees of uniform species and ages, the quality is difficult to predict. The sophisticated nature of agarwood is caused by many variable parameters; therefore, to determine its quality is a challenge. There appears to be a consensus among merchants, who habitually determine quality based on the country of origin, and the characteristics of the agarwood including the size, shape, color, scent and its durability, and the age and parts of the tree
from where it is derived
. The Wild Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC) reported that indicators for grading the quality of agarwood are really subjective and not proven. Many buyers also purchase their agarwood based on the country of origin and relates it to its quality. This might not be 100 % true, but their decision was established from experiences.




Agarwood is commonly traded in the form of chips. Other raw forms that are gaining popularity are blocks, logs, flakes, and powder, while the finished products in the international market are oil, incenses, perfumes, accessories, and carvings. The color and density of the wood are considered as important indicators of highquality agarwood (Fig. 10.1a). Darker wood is believed to have higher amount of oleoresin compared to a less-darkened wood (Fig. 10.1b). The deep color also indicates that the agarwood comes from older trees. It has always been thought that agarwood from old growth contains the best quality. This appearance has been used by some sellers to entice buyers, by soaking the wood chips in a mixture of petroleum-based synthetic oil so that it appears dark. This type of impregnated wood is known as the black magic wood (BMW) (Fig. 10.1c) (Antonopoulou et al.2010; Wyn and Anak 2010; Gusmailina 2010; TRAFFIC East Asia-Taipei and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia 2005). Although initially considered a less-desired product, BMW now has a market of its own, especially in the UAE (Antonopoulou et al. 2010). For the ordinary people, BMW becomes an alternative to the expensive agarwood. BMW is reported to be traded from Indonesia (TRAFFIC Southeast Asia 2007).




Dark wood correlates with good-quality agarwood, but there is an exception. The highest grade of kyara has a light brown color and yet its quality is considered the greatest by Japanese consumers. Another quality indicator is the part of a tree from where the agarwood was removed. For example, an agarwood piece that came from the root is deemed more valuable when compared to other parts of the tree. Also, the resin amount in thick pieces is assumed higher than that of thin ones. It is difficult to ascertain agarwood quality by looking at its physical appearance. Some people have used the “sinking test,” whereby wood chips are dropped in water to relate with the wood’s quality. Wood that floats are considered of inferior quality due to the low resin content. However, this is easy to exploit by adding foreign material like metals into the wood for instance. A more popular method is the “burning test.” Buyers can evaluate the aroma by burning a small sample of the agarwood chip. This method has its downside too as different people have different perceptions. Nevertheless, agarwood trading companies often hire trained personnel to sensory-evaluate the raw material before purchasing. Generally, many people agree that agarwood of the best quality has an outstanding aroma added with distinct odors when the wood piece is burned slowly or when the wood is distilled into essential oil. Some of the essential oils can be kept longer so that it develops the strong fragrance before being released into the market. The long-lasting fragrance indicates that the quality is superior, and naturally, it influences the grade and pricing (Antonopoulou et al. 2010; TRAFFIC East Asia-Taipei and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia 2005).




How to grade Agarwood




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