Richard Butler | Exclsuive Report By ANITA ROBERTS of DAILY POST VU | 5th APRIL, 2024

Vanuatu needs to plant more sandalwood to increase volume and keep the industry going, said the Director General (DG) of the ministry responsible, Timothy Tumukon.

“Now, wild harvested sandalwood no longer forms the basis of the industry in Vanuatu. It is crucial for everyone to join hands for a large-scale replanting program,” he said.

“The government and private sector need to actively to promote sandalwood planting to support increasing sandalwood stocks and make the industry sustainable.”

Tumukon said there is also great need to improve management practices, such as maintaining sandalwood seedlings when they are young and pruning, thinning, weeding and pollarding. Pollarding is a top management technique used to develop the quality of heartwood, which has recently been achieved in some large plantations on Efate.

DG Tumukon encouraged farmers to apply the technique to improve the quality of sandalwood heartwood and maintain its value and market. He said Vanuatu is striving to increase the volume and improve the quality of its sandalwood to remain competitive internationally. While the demand of sandalwood supply globally has been going up, the production in Vanuatu has been dwindled.


The National Sandalwood Forum was an opportunity for the government to listen to the farmers, licensees and exporters involved in the industry about their concerns and perspectives of the way forward.

A farmer and Minister of Sports, Tomker Netvunei, expressed his concern about the Department of Forestry’s (DoF) lack of action regarding the decline in replanting sandalwood over the past decade. He said the department has not done enough awareness across the country to motivate farmers to participate in the industry and educate them about the various cultivating techniques.

Netvunei said the department needs to regulate buyers from licensees, as some of the buyers are performing the work of a licensee, and ensure buyers do not buy sandalwood outside the designated season.

The farmers want subsidies similar to those for copra and kava. They also want the government to remove the close season so they can sell their products all year round. Many of the farmers suggested replanting as a way forward to foster growth in the industry. Their main challenges include natural disasters like cyclones and pests causing damage to trees.

The Acting Director of Forestry, Godfrey Bomee, said limited budget and staffing are some of the factors hindering the department from meeting expectations. Despite managing a crucial sector, the department receives one of the lowest government budget, he stressed.

Bomee explained that forestry sector requires specialist skills, and the most recent graduate they receive was in 2006. He also noted that replanting has always been a priority of the department.

The National Sandalwood Forum will end today with resolutions on addressing challenges and growing a sustainable sandalwood industry.

The three-day forum is organised by the DOF, Vanuatu Primary Producers Authority (VPPA) and the Pacific Horticulture and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA Plus).