Benchimol, Irmão & Cia Ltda
PRODUCTION OF BRAZILIAN ROSEWOOD OIL,
COPAIBA BALSAM AND TONKA BEANS
Paper presented to the International Conference
on Essential Oils and Aromas, Buenos Aires,
Argentina, 11 to 15 November 2001
Manaus, Amazonas, Brasil
Slide 1 : Title
The previous papers on Brazil at this conference have dealt with the oils derived from cultivated
plants. In this presentation, I shall focus on three products of the so-called ‘extractivism’ industry in Amazonia.
‘Extractivism’ is a term used to describe the harvesting of indigenous, wild forest resources.
My specific subjects are the products of wild growing trees; namely, namely rosewood oil, copaiba
balsam and tonka beans. These three commodities have been exported by Brazil to the international
fragrance and flavour industry for around a century.
For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of Brazil, allow me first to show the location of the
Slide 2 : Greater Amazonia
Greater Amazonia is the world’s largest rainforest area and covers parts of Brazil, the Guianas, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. The Brazilian Amazon region is highlighted in
green on the map.
In Brazil, the natural forest area of Amazonia has reduced in the past few decades as a result of
ranching, slash-and-burn agriculture, logging and mining. These developments have impacted to
varying degrees on the availability and accessibility of all three of my subject commodities. For most
of my discussion on operations today, I shall be referring to a more restricted area that is accessed
from the free port city of Manaus in the state of Amazonas. This area is illustrated in slide 3.
Slide 3 : Manaus region
The natural occurrence of rosewood, copaiba and tonka lies in the more remote, wild forest areas.
Since road systems are restricted to the developed areas, access to the raw materials is by the
traditional method of navigation of the tributaries of the river Amazon. Therefore, you may regard
my story as an excursion by boat into the rainforest.
Slide 4 : River photo
My intention is to review and to explain the causes of the changes in production over the past few
decades and to indicate possible future trends.
ROSEWOOD (also known as bois-de-rose and pau rosa)
The oil of rosewood is obtained from the trunk and branch wood of Aniba rosaeodora Ducke and
closely related species. These trees are slow growing evergreens of the Lauracaea family which are
indigenous over a wide range of the Greater Amazon Region from the Caribbean coast (the Guianas
and Venezuela), through the northern and central areas of the Brazilian Amazon and across into
neighbouring Colombia and Peru.
Slide 5 : Photo of rosewood tree
The steam distilled wood oil is obtained in a yield ranging around 1% and up to 90% of the oil consists of optically active linalol.
Production of one drum (180 kg) of oil requires 15 tonnes of wood, equivalent to 5 or 6 trees, depending on their diameter. Harvesting of the trunk of mature trees results in their destruction.
Several countries in the region produced rosewood oil up until the 1950s but, thereafter, Brazil has been the sole supplier to the market.
Production and Marketing Systems
Harvesting and distillation
The general methods of harvesting and distillation have not changed for over 50 years. At the commencement of the dry season in May, an experienced ‘scout’ seeks out natural stands of rosewood trees close to the riverbanks of the Amazon tributaries. When an economically worthwhile stand is found, a team of about 30 harvesters arrives and fells the trees. Traditionally, the cut wood is manually carried in 1 metre lengths to the riverbank. Some companies, however, introduced mini-tractors to make transportation easier in the late 1980s. The cutting season spans May to October.
Distillation of the wood is carried out in one of three locations :
? at the riverbank in the collection area, using mobile distilleries that have been shipped
or, after shipment of the logs downriver,
? at fixed distilleries in towns in the interior; and
? at fixed distilleries in Manaus.
Shipment downriver of wood and of the oil produced by mobile distilleries occurs only in the wet season (December to April) when there is a sufficient depth of water for boats in the upper reaches of the rivers.
Virtually all of the distillery equipment today is very old. Prior to distillation, the wood is reduced to a small size, using a mechanical wood chipper. Distillation pots range in chip holding capacity from 200 to 1,000 kg and the distillation time varies from 2.5 to 5 hours per batch.
Photos of rosewood oil production operations
Slide 6 : Mini tractor 7 : field distillery 8 : mobile boiler 9 : fixed still
10 : trunks on riverbank 11 : chipping machine 12 : charge in pot
The oil marketing system
Oil produced at distilleries finds its way to market by one of three routes :
Slide : 13
% of total
Distiller ? direct export by a few distillers (via Manaus); } 70%
? sale to Manaus traders who export from Manaus; }
? sale to a branch of a multinational in Sao Paulo or Rio (and 30%
this may be under a rolling, fixed price contract arrangement).
Very little rosewood oil is used in products sold on the domestic consumer market. Purchases by
local branches of the multinational fragrance companies are effectively for onward shipment to their
Some of these companies compound the oil prior to export and these shipments appear under a
different classification to rosewood. The published official figures for total Brazilian exports of
rosewood oil from Manaus and other cities, therefore, can be significantly less than the actual
production level in most years.
Over 95% of exports are destined for Western Europe and the United States with the latter taking on
average around 60% of Brazil’s exports.
Changes in Production and Exports
Slide 14 shows a 50 years series for recorded exports of rosewood oil by Brazil. It reveals that the
scale of the trade has declined dramatically from the 300(+) tonnes level of the 1950s.
Slide 14 :
Exports of rosewood oil, 1950-2000
500 450 400
250tonnes 200 150 100
1950 1953 1956 1959These changes are reflected also by the number of companies involved in the industry : 1962 1965Slide : 15 1968 1971Year total # of # of active distilleries # of non-# people 1974distiller in Manaus distilling employed 1977companies exporters in in the
19831960 45 30,000
19861992 10 2 1
19892001 5 1 2 2,000
1995The fixed distilleries in the interior are now confined to the towns of Parantins, Maues, Presidente
1998Figerido and Nova Aripauana while only one distillery is today operating in Manaus.
The decline history may be considered to have involved three phases :
Phase 1 (1960s/70s)
The initial and major loss of market commenced during the 1960s, following the introduction of
comparatively inexpensive synthetic linool. Rosewood oil usage as a source of linalool isolates and
for direct incorporation in low cost fragrances disappeared.
For a number of years, rosewood production exceeded demand and high unsold stocks were held in Manaus.
Phase 2 (the 1980s)
During the 1980s, some further erosion of demand occurred with the reintroduction to the market of Ho wood and Ho leaf oils from China. On the basis of lower cost, the Ho oils displaced rosewood in middle-price range applications, such as extenders for lavender. During this phase, rosewood usage became restricted to incorporation in the higher priced range of fragrances.
However, rosewood oil production had restructured and, during this phase, producers controlled output to fairly closely match demand at around an annual average of 100 tonnes.
Phase 3 (the 1990s)
Another dramatic decline phase has been experienced in the more recent period. Annual output was erratic in the early 1990s and progressively reduced to an average of around 50 tonnes per in the past few years. Direct exports from Manaus have averaged 30 tonnes and purchases by the Rio and Sao Paulo based multinationals have been about 20 tonnes each year.
This new phase has been marked, also, by an increase in sale price (as shown in slide 16).
Slide 16 :
Rosewood oil exports and fob prices, 1980-1999
18050 45160 40140 35 12030 10025 80tonnesUS$/kg20 6015 4010 205
19801981 1982 1983Source : Published statistics of the Bank of Brazil, IBGE and 19841985the Secretariat of External Commerce, SECEX 1986 1987The downward export trend is mirrored by the import figures for the traditional largest individual 1988buyer, the United States (see slide 17). 1989199019911992199319941995 7 1996199719981999
Slide 17 :
US imports of rosewood oil, 1992-2000
total imports25 direct from Brazil20tonnes
Source:: USDA Foreign Agriculture Service
During the recent period, the USA has frequently been forced to buy significant quantities via
Europe (especially France). This is an indicator of a tight supply situation.
Indeed, the recent phase 3 period differs from former years in that the decline in trade has primarily
arisen from supply problems, rather than from a major downturn in demand.
Causes of the downturn in production during the 1990s
The 1990s rundown in the scale of the industry have arisen from :
? rising production costs and unattractive profit margins, combined with
? increasing intervention by the Brazilian National Institute for the Environment and Natural
Tree availability and accessibility
In the early 1950s, rosewood trees were widely distributed and readily accessible along the banks of
the rivers Curuauna, Tapajos, Parintins, Maues, Nhamunda, Uatumã Negro, Purus and Madeira.
During the following two decades, the scale of extraction annually amounted to some 25,000 tonnes
of wood (or 10,000 trees). This led to the virtual extinction of breeding populations along the river
banks in many areas of the main producing states of Para and Amazonas.
By the 1980s, access to mature natural stands became progressively more difficult and effectively
confined to a number of areas in central Amazonas. Even in these areas, trees with a desirable breast
height diameter (dbh) of greater than 30 cm are today found only 2 km or more distant from
Nature has also added accessibility difficulties in that El Ninio effects in the early 1990s reduced rainfall in some years. This lowered river depth and the distance that boats could travel upstream.
A decree was published in the 1940s that required the replanting of 9 self-sown seedlings for every barrel of oil produced. This was observed to varying degrees within the industry.
However, major government interventions did not occur until the more recent period. The new
regulations were stimulated by a United Nations (FAO) listing in the late 1980s of rosewood as ‘an endangered species’. The Brazilian government response is regarded by the industry and by the scientific community as a measure to protect and rationalize rosewood exploitation.
It is broadly agreed that a high loss of biodiversity resulted over an extensive area from the ‘industrial mining’ phase during the 1950s to 1970s. However, there is no threat of species extinction since many populations remain in the interior, including those in areas that will be inaccessible to the industry for the foreseeable future (such as in Tapajos and Xingu). Moreover, the recent reduced scale of the industry has a minimal effect on the tree population and good natural regeneration can be observed today in many areas that were harvested decades ago.
The first of the new IBAMA regulations were published in April 1992 and the most recent in May 1998. In summary, these regulations specify :
? the areas where rosewood extraction is not permissible;
? a prohibition on cutting trees of less than 20cm dbh;
? the volume of wood that may be extracted annually by the industry;
? the requirement for companies to prepare a sustainable management plan and obtain IBAMA
? carrying out reforestation proportionate to the extraction; and
? the possession of an IBAMA certificate for export.
The 1998 regulations specify that the annual limit of extraction by the industry is 2,000 trees. Current estimates by the industry are of extraction of around 1,700 trees annually (approximately 5,000 tonnes of wood), i.e. well within the limit.
The impact of costs plus regulations
The IBAMA regulations have caused general frustration within the industry over the 1990s,
especially as those remaining in the industry at the beginning of the decade were highly committed to the objective of sustainability.
Putting aside the frustration at remote civil servants, the key factor during the 1990s for many companies has been the costs of running an operation. Financing a tree harvesting crew must occur 6 months in advance of the possible sale of the oil product, because the seasons dictate the pattern of harvesting and produce transport on the rivers. The advance to harvesting crews is equal to 50% of the value of the wood, for which the price is around US$100/tonne. During the early 1990s, interest rates were running at in excess of 25% per month, so the advance financing placed an onerous
burden on distillers and the profit margin after production of the oil was small.
These combined factors are the reasons for half of the companies deciding ton exit industry during
the 1990s. There has been a concomitant loss of skilled workers, who have moved into the goldfields
or to other forms of employment.
Within the Brazilian industry, there is obvious concern about the effect on longer-term demand in
response to reduced supply levels and increased prices. However, the core remaining players may be
regarded as highly committed and see the industry as a ‘way of life’. All have engaged in substantial
planting of self-sown seedlings in the harvested areas over the past few years.
It is possible that the long-term future of the industry lies with establishing formal cultivation of
rosewood and of developing new products. This particular topic will be addressed on Thursday by
Professor Barata of the University of Campinas.
Copaiba balsam is an oleoresin exudate that is obtained by manual tapping of the trunks of various
wild growing Copaifera species (family Leguminosae) in the Greater Amazonian region. Copaiba oil
is obtained by steam distillation of the balsam.
Brazil is the largest world producer of the balsam, and mainly obtains the product from C. reticulata
Ducke, C. guianensis Desf. and C. multijuga Hayne.
Colombia, Venezuela and the Guianas are smaller-scale producers and principally exploit C. offcinalis
Copaiba oil has been employed for over 100 years by the international fragrance industry as an
aromatic fixative in perfumes and in other products, such as soaps.
A substantial domestic market exists in Brazil for the balsam for use as an antiseptic and anti-
inflammatory product and in some other traditional applications, particularly in Amazonia.
Production and Trade of the Balsam
Copaiba trees are found around the Tapajos river in the southern part of Para state and, especially,
along the rivers Purus, Madeira, Aripuana and Manucapuru in Amazonas state. The trees are up to 30
metres tall and occur at about 1 to 2 per hectare.
Skilled collectors extract the balsam in the forest areas during February to July. Tapping is non-
destructive and the same tree may be used year after year. Between 5 to 10 kg of balsam is obtained
per season per tree, depending on its diameter. Sales are made by collectors to traders in rural towns.
Production levels fluctuate annually since access to the forest areas is by boat and upstream sites
cannot be visited in years of low river levels.
Manaus accounts for around 90% of direct overseas exports of the balsam. The principal export
destinations are the USA, France and Germany. IBGE export statistics for the 1980-1992 are shown in
slide 17. More recent export figures are not available but are estimated to be similar in magnitude with