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Frankincense has been used in the perfume industry for thousands of years. The sweet aromatic resin brings out the natural fragrance in rich perfumes. Having been the main ingredient for perfumes, today we see a decline in the use of Frankincense in perfumes. France purchase tonnes of frankincense from Sudan for its perfume production but recent record show that more perfumes are turning to synthetic substitutes. Whilst most western perfumes contain over 70% alcohol and synthetic flavours for large profit margins this has added to the decline in the frankincense production. Perfume Oils still contain pure essential oils to produce the aromatic scents. Amouage an Omani based company uses high content of the finest Royal Hojari Frankincense in all its perfumes, and some of the most expensive brands use frankincense in their perfumes.
Recent articles mention that the frankincense tree (Boswellia Tree) is under threat and could be out of existent as early as the next 15 years. There are many reasons for this. In northern Ethiopia, more than 177,438 ha of B. papyrifera forests were destroyed in the last 20 years. In Eritrea frankincense export dropped from 2000 tons in 1974 to 400 tons in 1998
The rapid decline of the Boswellia Papyifera and Carterri trees in Africa is due to extensive farming. There has also been an increase in population and this has resulted in the conversion of Boswellia woodlands to agricultural lands. The method of extraction has also affected the decline in the boswellia tree. Unskilled labourers with inappropriate tapping methods has caused an over tapping of the trees, which slows down the rate at which it regains its natural frankincense production.
Termite and other insect infestation are damaging the seeds. Another main factor is the decline in the people having interest in tapping the trees. As the elders are dying the younger generation are more interested in other higher paid jobs nationally and internationally.
Oman has recently built a new frankincense conservation area and has bought in specialist tree tappers from Indian and Somalia as well as locals to continue its production. Somalia and Ethiopia continue to tap the trees but the trees there are under threat by the dung beetle, which eats away at the trees. Other factors are the shrinking of the forests for making new roads and infrastructure. The western perfume industry has a big role to play as it is moving away from natural perfumes and is moving towards synthetic ingredients.
We need to save the Boswellia Frankincense Tree from declining. For a trade that was once the source of many peoples income and wealth that built palaces and infastructure as far as the eye can see is now slowly being replaced by cheaper substitutes. We need to re-educate ourselves and understand the benefits of frankincense and not let the magical properties of the frankincense tree bury itself in its own soil.