Scientific and technical bases for the development of a high-quality aquilaria essential oil and by-product supply chain - Aquil@Guyane

At the request of farmers in French Guiana, the Aquil@Guyane project is supporting cultivation of trees from the genus Aquilaria. The oleoresin found in the wood and molecules in the leaves are of high economic value.
© M. Ducousso, CIRAD
© M. Ducousso, CIRAD

© M. Ducousso, CIRAD


In response to the stress generated by contamination by a pathogen, notably a fungus, aquilaria trees produce an oleoresin –agarwood – with a strong smell and high added value. A litre of essential oil from this wood is typically worth an average of $ 10 000. This oleoresin is used in Southeast Asian traditional medicine, in the form of an infusion, and to make incense. However, in many Southeast Asian countries, essential oil quality does not meet market expectations, as the trees are not grown in line with their ecological requirements. To stimulate oleoresin production, many growers inject a wide range of homemade products into holes bored in the trunk. In most cases, this practice adversely affects the composition of the distilled product, and it sometimes kills the tree. This is compounded by other challenges: controlling the genetics of the plant; mastering aquilaria plantation management; initiating growers into agarwood production and maturation in interaction with selected microorganisms that should ensure very high-quality agarwood, or into essential oil extraction methods.

French Guiana is a French overseas department that is home to the largest tropical forest in Europe, with substantial biodiversity.  It is also an isolated territory with huge development challenges in line with its high population growth and unemployment rates. The project will provide farmers in French Guiana with the fundamental knowledge they need to establish a sustainable aquilaria leaf and wood production chain that will generate high added value.


Two main activities are under way:

  1. Producing aquilaria on a large scale: conserving aquilaria genotypes that are in danger of extinction, controlled propagation in French Guiana, ensuring greenhouse gas sequestration.
  2. Optimizing production of contaminated aquilaria wood (agarwood) and “French Guiana”-stamped quality essential oils. Product quality will be tailored to user demand, as per agreed specifications: wood harvesting, storage, preparation and distillation conditions, development of biological, biomolecular and physicochemical methods.

The project concerns a genetic resource that originated in Laos: to set an example and respect access and benefit-sharing (ABS) mechanisms, partners in Laos (national authorities, universities and private organizations) are associated with the project.

Expected changes

  • Reproducing aquilaria in French Guiana will have helped conserve genotypes in danger of extinction held at the Biological Resource Centre (BRC) in the department.
  • Working on the quality of the essential oil and oleoresin in aquilaria wood and on the molecules contained in the leaves will guarantee high added-value end products.
  • A high-quality essential oil and infusion production chain will have been established in French Guiana, helping to create jobs in the department.
  • Farmers in Cacao and Régina will be able to share their know-how in terms of good, environmentally friendly working practices.

The project thus fits in with the objectives of the Schéma régional d’innovation (regional innovation plan) for French Guiana, by making sustainable use of a high added-value bioresource.

Contract partners

  • French Guiana territorial authority
  • Guyane Développement Innovation
  • Farmers in Régina and Cacao