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The Smell of Money

Hong Kong is a fast-paced, dynamic city, and people here have to be efficient, results oriented and juggle a dozen tasks to keep pace with the rapidly changing business environment. This is also true with investments, but one company is selling investments that require far more patience for nest eggs to grow – trees!

Mark Lamb (left) and Gerard McGuirk, from the Asia Plantation Hong Kong Ltd, explained that Hong Kong’s name is said to derive from the incense business that used to boom here, and the trade of valuable agarwood. The entrepreneurs have set up sustainable forests in Thailand to produce agarwood, which are so valuable they are surrounded by wire-mesh fences and are patrolled by armed guards. 

Agarwood has been traded globally for centuries, and its value is derived from its resin, called Oud oil, which has a rich, natural and distinctive incense that is used to make high-ended fragrances.

Due to development and the difficulty in obtaining a license to grow agarwood, the practice has become virtually extinct in Hong Kong.

“There is no better place to reintroduce agarwood than in Hong Kong,” said McGuirk. With the help of the last remaining licensed commercial grower in Hong Kong, Chan Koon Wing, Asia Plantation Hong Kong Ltd is aiming to reintroduce agarwood production back to Hong Kong, to restore and protect the heritage, and also turn a profit.

“People now are looking for alternative investments, and green investments also allow you to do something positive for the environment,” Lamb explained.

Oud oil, or agarwood, appears naturally in the heart of aquilaria trees when they are infected by a type of bacteria. Only about 7% of aquilaria trees in the wild get infected, and the only way to know if a tree is producing agarwood is to fell it. Illegal logging companies have basically been cutting down all aquilaria trees in certain areas to find the treasure, which is why the species is close to extinction.

The illegal logging is a multi-million dollar business, yet according to McGuirk, “counting all the legal companies in Asia, if you put them all together, they would probably only supply about 40% of the world demand for agarwood.”

Illegal loggers have little trouble selling their loot, but the devastation they are causing was a key motivator for Asia Plantation Capital to start investing in agarwood production in Thailand, Singapore, and now Hong Kong. While only 7% of trees in the wild get infected, Lamb said the company uses the latest technology to artificially infect the trees with a 100% success rate.

Having received a permit from the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species, Asia Plantation Hong Kong Ltd can legally harvest and trade agarwood. The partners aim to attract more investors to expand the business, which they hope will become big enough to discourage illegal logging.


Asia Plantation Hong Kong Ltd

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