Sandalwood has been used extensively in the Orient (particularly India and China) for many centuries because of its aromatic properties. It is highly prized for use during ceremonial occasions when Sandalwood joss sticks were burned as incense.
It is unclear as to when the trade between India, China and the Indonesian Archipelago began, although it is known that Europeans became involved in the trade almost as soon as they appeared in the region.
The Portuguese occupied Malacca in 1511 and established a trading base from which they hoped to monopolise the spice trade between the East Indies and Europe. It wasn’t long before Portuguese merchants from Malacca were sending their ships down to Timor and Flores to buy Sandalwood for the trade they had established with China.
By the early part of the 19th century the British were involved in the trade having established Sandalwood plantations in Mysore, India. Their chief market for the wood was Singapore and it was this trade that directly led to the establishment of a Sandalwood industry in Western Australia.
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