Friday, December 24, 2021

Commodities: What You Should Know About Frankincense—The Looming Supply Crunch

There are no pure-play frankincense equities, nor futures and forwards so the cash market is where the action is.
And because of the frontier nature of the prime growing regions, Somaliland, Eritrea, Sudan for Boswellia papyrifera and the Dhofar desert in Oman for Boswellia sacra, you may want to send your ne'er-do-well brother-in-law to scout the territory first.
Finally, although no longer worth its weight in gold, at $1315.00 per kilo, wholesale FOB Salalah, for the essential oil of the Omani variety there is some profit potential.

First up, some background from the Middle East Institute and Saudi Aramco:

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh
We all know what gold is, but what are frankincense and myrrh?

Both frankincense and myrrh start as a resinous sap inside a special family of trees that grow almost exclusively in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. At certain times of year the trees are cut with special knives, and the sap oozes out. Once the sap has dried in the sun, it is ready to be used. Harvested frankincense and myrrh are burned as incense because of their pleasing aromas, but historically they have a number of other uses as well:

Almost all frankincense comes from western Oman, where it is used for everything from deodorant and toothpaste to food and drink flavoring.
Frankincense and myrrh were so expensive in Europe that southern Arabia became known as Arabia Felix, “Arabia the Blessed.”

Because frankincense was in high demand from Europe to Asia, the kingdoms of southern Arabia became an integral part of global economy with shipping connections to India, the Mediterranean and the Silk Road.

Some of the earliest uses of the camel as a domesticated beast of burden took place in southern Arabia in order to make overland transport of frankincense and myrrh possible.
The Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Israelites and numerous other cultures used frankincense and myrrh as part of their religious ceremonies.

Frankincense and myrrh were extensively used in burial rituals as an embalming material, an offering to the departed and a means to cover the odor of the dead body.
The Roman emperor, Nero, burned an entire year’s harvest of frankincense at the funeral of his favorite mistress.

Frankincense has traditionally been used as a remedy for a wide variety of afflictions, including ulcers, hypertension, nausea, fever, indigestion, chest coughs and post-childbirth recovery.
The smoke from burning frankincense drives away mosquitoes and other flying insects, reducing incidences of malaria in afflicted regions.
Myrrh is also used medicinally to treat sore throats, cramps, inflammation, colic and digestive problems.
Fuel of the First Global Economy 500BCE to 500AD

The Three Wise Men: The traditional telling of the Christmas story include a key moment where Wise men from the East arrive and present the Christ child with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This brief mention of frankincense is usually the first and most common encounter that most people have with this special substance. Few people know much about it, or its wider significance in the establishment of trade routes between Europe and Asia.

But what IS Frankincense?
Frankincense begins as a resinous sap from a unique family of trees

Frankincense is an aromatic, congealed, resinous sap from a specific variety of trees in the genus Boswelia. Most of the trees in the Boswelia genus are aromatic, and many of them produce a scented resinous sap, but only one tree, Boswelia sacra produces the highest grade of frankincense, also known as “true” or “commercial” incense

Careful incisions are made in the tree at key times of year, and the sap slowly pours out

Once the sap dries and hardens it is ready to be used.
The first period of tapping occurs from January to March and the second from August to October. After tapping has continued for five/six years, the trees are rested....MUCH MORE
HT: MetaFilter

And from National Geographic, December 13: 

Frankincense trees—of biblical lore—are being tapped out for essential oils 
The fragrant resin gifted to the newborn Jesus may be at risk of disappearing. 
On a starlit night long ago, as the story goes, three wise men brought gifts to baby Jesus in a stable. One was gold, the others frankincense and myrrh. Frankincense, like myrrh, was highly prized—thought to be worth its weight in gold—but it wouldn’t have been hard to find: Trees that yield the fragrant resin were widespread in the lands of the Bible and beyond.
Two millennia later, Anjanette DeCarlo and a team of Somalians spent a sweltering day hiking to what they thought was a virgin stand of frankincense-producing trees in the mountains near Yubbe, a town in Somaliland. But, DeCarlo says, when they arrived, after traveling more than four hours by car and another four hours on foot, “we were absolutely in shock.”
DeCarlo, an ecologist and director of a project called Save Frankincense, based in Somaliland—a self-governing region northwest of Somalia that isn’t recognized by foreign governments—hadn’t expected to find tree after tree whose trunks, from top to bottom, were marred by cuts.

Frankincense, woodsy and sweetly aromatic, is one of the oldest commercial commodities, spanning more than 5,000 years. Today, thousands of tons of it are traded every year to be used by Catholic priests as incense in thuribles and by makers of perfumes, natural medicines, and essential oils that can be inhaled or applied to the skin for their purported health benefits.
Most frankincense comes from about five species of Boswellia trees, found in North Africa and India, but also in Oman, Yemen, and western Africa. The trees look gnarled and knotty, like a desert bonsai. To collect frankincense, harvesters make incisions into the trunks and scrape out the oozing sap, which hardens into frankincense resin.
According to DeCarlo, the trees should be cut no more than 12 times a year to keep them healthy. But in that mountain forest in Somaliland, she counted as many as 120 incisions in a single tree. The resin that leaks out of the cuts acts like a scab, protecting the wound so it can heal. It’s the same with our bodies, she says. If you get cut once, “you’re OK, right? You put a band-aid on it….But if you get cut, you get cut, you get cut, and you’re cut…well, you’re going to be very, very open to infection now. Your immune system is going to take a big hit trying to save you, and your immunity’s going to crash.” She adds, “It is the exact same thing with a frankincense tree.”
During the past decade or so, the market for essential oils—worth more than $7 billion in 2018 and expected to double in value by 2026—has boomed, putting greater pressure on frankincense trees. Aromatherapy used to be a “healers’ niche,” says Tim Valentiner, vice president of global strategic sourcing for the essential oil company doTERRA, but now it’s more mainstream. He says the company, which was founded in 2008, doubled in size year-on-year at the beginning. (DoTERRA funds much of DeCarlo’s research into sustainable frankincense harvesting.)....