Mohamed Aldelaimi has been selling oud for decades. His late father was also in the oud business in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and when Aldelaimi came to Qatar in the 1980s, he opened an oud shop. Now he is a wholesale dealer with his own agarwood plantation in Indonesia.
There is roughly $1.5m worth of oud in Aldelaimi's storeroom
He estimates that there is about $1.5m worth of oud in his storeroom in Qatar, an unspectacular space where plastic boxes filled with the precious commodity are piled up to the ceiling.
Aldelaimi says that simply by listening to the sounds of the wood, he can identify both its origins and its degree of quality.
"Older people will cut it [the oud] with their teeth and they will taste it. If it’s very bitter, then it is good quality," says Aldelaimi.
The taste of the wood is one of many ways to test the quality of oud
Behind the rising price of oud
Supplies are dwindling as consumer demand - in both East and West - grows, profit-hungry speculators close in on the market and the evergreen aquilaria tree, from which precious agarwood is derived, becomes increasingly endangered.
In a bid to conserve what remains, most Southeast Asian countries have made it illegal to cut and harvest agarwood-producing species. Countries like Malaysia and the main exporter, Indonesia, have introduced export quotas.
Now they supply just a fraction of the demand. But even with a price tag of more than $30,000 per kilogram for the best quality, the wild tree species are still threatened.
So, despite a ban on logging, the tree is on the verge of extinction in many countries. But, in a vicious circle, the rarer it gets the more desirable it becomes, driving up prices and creating a dangerous black market.
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