Interviews were conducted with several traders and official export houses. Numerous large branch and trunk sections were observed for sale, but the availability of quality agarwood chips and segments was extremely limited and much more expensive in comparison to prices in India, Indonesia and Singapore. Traders stated that higher prices reflected higher grades but this was not confirmed by interviews held with traders in Singapore. They could, however, be a consequence of the higher risks and costs associated with illegally transporting agarwood into Vietnam from Lao PDR and Cambodia and of exporting it illegally.
Grade-one and grade-two agarwood segments are offered for sale at USD3500/kg and USD2000/kg, respectively. In the mid-1980s, grade-one and grade-two segments were available for USD1200-1700/kg (USD1733-2455/kg, when adjusted to 1998 value). Grade-five segments can be bought for approximately USD200/kg and grade six (largely immature wood) can be bought for around USD100/kg. Wood sold for carving, although often fake, can still sell for up to USD400/kg, according to one sculpture trader. Grade-one powder is offered for around USD200/kg, grade-two for around USD100/kg and grades five and six sell for as little as USD25-30/kg. Medicinal agarwood (Ky Nam) is obtained from the roots of resinous trees and is highly sought after. Ky Nam was observed for sale in Ho Chi Minh City, primarily for export to Japan, for between USD2000-10 000/kg. Recent quotes for Ky Nam are up to USD15 000/kg (H. Heuveling van Beek, TRP,in litt. to TRAFFIC International, 2 May 2000).
Agarwood oil distillation is limited: surveys of the large essential oil distilleries revealed that they do not produce agarwood oil. However, there are one or two agarwood distilleries on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City (one managed by an immigrant from Taiwan) and also one or two reportedly in Da Nang Province. All of the oil distillers interviewed reported that agarwood prices have increased dramatically during the past five years. One Vietnamese distiller reported that production of one litre of agarwood oil required 500-1000 kg of low-grade agarwood and would sell for around USD7000. Recent (2000) quotes for high-grade oil (available only to order) are USD15 000/litre (H. Heuveling van Beek, TRP, in litt. To TRAFFIC International, 2 May 2000).
There are reports of a company based in Ho Chi Minh City that invested over USD100 000 several years ago in the construction of a sophisticated distillation facility. The company had a buy-back arrangement with a Saudi Arabian importer who offered the fixed price of USD5000/kg for oil. The deal apparently collapsed and the unit has mostly remained idle.
The Essential Oil Enterprise in Hanoi is part of the Ministry of Science and Technology and Environment and is equipped with good laboratory and extraction facilities under a United Nations project. This enter-prise has undertaken research on agarwood oil. It is likely to be the only facility in Vietnam capable ofevaluating oil samples.