The Tropical Forest Services (TFS) harvested around 32,000 sandalwood trees in Ord this year which needed to be processed in Kununarra for both domestic and export markets. Kimberley’s Old Irrigation Scheme has expanded its processing capacity in order to meet the demand of the large harvest of Indian sandalwood trees. The TFS has invested in a hi-tech Primary Processing Center (PPC) which includes a custom production line and other processing equipment that the company developed.
The high value of the timber has caused the security around the PPC to be strong including fencing, guard patrols and 24/7 CCTV surveillance. The process is secretive and when giving ABC Rural a tour the TFS development manager, Johan Nortier, could not go into detail on the aspects of the processing.
Preparing for a Global Market
“Our function here is to prepare the wood for our oil distillation plant in Albany, and also for the various export wood markets in Asia and Europe, said Nortier to ABC Rural. “The machine works on scanning equipment and data-capturing to assist us in making decisions on how to process the wood for those various markets.
Operating 24 hours a day, the PPC creates a range of products including chips, gullies, manufacturing logs and heartwood billets. With the harvest of around 32,000 Indian sandalwood trees, the volume from the previous year increases ten-fold with a yield of more than 300 tons.
While TFS owns and manages 12,000 hectares of Indian sandalwood plantations, the company also plans to expand another 7,500 hectares over the next five years to account for the enlarged processing needs.
"What you see now is about 30 per cent of where we need to be," Nortier said. “I'm currently developing three more machines which will be running by June next year and will assist us with more processing and better productivity. It's a step-by-step process to meet our market demand and also gear ourselves up for when we get into bigger harvests. We need to plan for 800 hectares [harvested] three years from now. We need to be able to process all of that wood in a timely manner."