Aquilaria is an international important agarwood producing genus in Thymelaeaceae in taxonomy. These trees are the most valuable of the Family because of the production of high quality fragrant dark resinous wood. Aquilaria plants are mainly distributed in tropical and subtropical regions where India and Southeast Asian countries are the most famous tree plantation areas in the world. Agarwood incense has been priced and used in daily life, religious activities, and traditional Chinese medicine. The resin-embedded wood is also a precious material for carving. In recent years, products such as drinks, essential oil, perfume, beauty care and cosmetics have been prosperously developed. Taiwan is one of the major consumers in the international agarwood market, importing thousands of metric tons from Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and Thailand. According to Taiwan Customs Data (1993-1998), the price of first-class agarwood is as high as thousands of dollars per kilogram, and the domestic market demand every year is considerable.
There are about 20 species of Aquilaria. Some of them, such as Aquilaria malaccensis, ( = A. agallocha) is rare in nature and are widely cultivated. Aquilaria spp., Gyrinops spp. and Gonystylus spp. in Thymelaeaceae have been placed on the Appendix II list of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1995-2005.
In recent years, India, Southeast Asian countries and Mainland China have actively expanded the plantation of Aquilaria in order to supply the growing demand of the international market. For example, A. crassna is widely planted in Vietnam and A. sinensis is planted lots in mainland China.
The field investigation by our experts demonstrated that a large number of Aquilaria seedlings were introduced from Vietnam to Taiwan for cultivation before the 1960s, and they were handed over to the Changhua County Government. According to our survey data recorded in 2012, Aquilaria tree has been planted in Taiwan for more than 60 years, there should be more than 2 million trees grown in all parts of Taiwan but more concentrated in the middle and southern Taiwan. The plantation of Aquilaria is still increasing, and the Aquilaria plant is becoming a "new crop" in Taiwan island.
Besides, there are not only agarwood gardens throughout Taiwan, but also handicrafts, religious articles and art of incense and culture of agarwood are booming. Taiwan already has the foundation for the agarwood industry. If we can take advantage of the trend to promote, we will enable agarwood to become another new business which will flourish in the international market, after the country's original "orchid" and "biotechnology" industries.
Taiwan Agarwood Society was organized and established on August 4, 2010, when the first preparatory meeting was held. Seven members of the preparatory committee were President Dr. Da-Yung Wang of MingDao University, President Dr. Wai-Jane Ho of Da-Yeh University, Dr. Sheng-Ming Chen, Dr. Jen-Ping Chung, Dr. Ching-Chiang Huang, Dr. Shyh-Ching Yang, and Dr. Wen-Jun Liu. Dr Da-Yung Wang was the preparatory chairman. The venue is located in MingDao University, Pitou Township, Changhua County.
The purpose of the Society is to engage in academic research and promote the cooperation of industry and academia of agarwood production. Since its establishment, the Society has made great achievements in research and promotion of agarwood industry based at Mingdao University.
Up to now, the board of directors and supervisors has been reelected for four times, with more than 400 registered members. The Society has carried out several activities on the production and study of agarwood, which will be of great help to the future development of agarwood industry in Taiwan. The activities include the followings: (1) Annual symposium (2) Aquilaria field trip study on cultivation and agarwood inducing technology (3) Seminar on special issue of agarwood industry (4) Agarwood related products exhibition, etc. In addition, in order to expand international horizons, regular national and international agarwood production and academic activities are held to activate the local agarwood industry and culture of incense, with the goal of improving the economic benefits of agarwood and benefiting the people.
In order to forward Taiwan to become an "International Agarwood Research and Industry-University Cooperation Center", the Taiwan Agarwood Society organized the "2013 International Agarwood Conference" (ICA 2013) at Mingdao University from September 27 to 29, 2013. During the conference, nearly 200 agarwood experts from eight countries, including Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, India, Singapore, China and Taiwan, attended the conference to discuss the current and future prospects of agarwood industry.