Why frankincense and myrrh are so expensive

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Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Frankincense and myrrh are perhaps best known for their biblical connotations. But this tree sap has been prized across the world for over 6,000 years. These fragrant incense pieces come from the Burseraceae family of trees and are found across the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. But despite recent attempts to protect these trees, they could soon be headed for extinction.

So, what makes frankincense and myrrh so expensive?

There are roughly 550 species of Burseraceae, a collection of trees often referred to as the incense tree family, recognizable for their flaking aromatic bark and fragrant sap. But true frankincense comes from only a small fraction of those species.

Muez Hailu, Director of Forest Development: “In Ethiopia, there are six species of gum and resin trees. One of those species is called Boswellia papyrifera. That’s its scientific name. It is highly demanded in the international market.”

Narrator: Frankincense is a milky white resin derived from Boswellia trees, which are remarkable for their ability to grow in unforgiving conditions. In fact, these trees have been known to grow out of solid rock. Myrrh, on the other hand, is a reddish resin extracted from Commiphora trees. The process of extracting sap from Boswellia and Commiphora trees is virtually identical. Incisions, or taps, are made in the bark of the tree, which create injury. The trees produce a gummy resin, like a scab, as a protection against the injury. The resin then hardens into teardrop pieces. More incisions are made at important intervals to continue the production of resin exudates.

Melles Gebru, Tapper at Baeker Site: “First, we tap here. We call this a target. This one is already wounded. After 15 days, the exudates will be ready to detach. This is called “KNFRIT”. After 15 days, with the same process we detach it again. This is called “SALSYEN”. At the same time, we also collect some gum resins out of it. After another 15 days, which is called “RABE’YEN,” we collect some more. We do the same process continuously every 15 days.”

Narrator: The resin granules collected from the trees must be separated into different grades. First grade-A frankincense is clear, white, and without impurities. Smaller pieces of the same high-quality granules are separated within a sieve and classified as first grade-B frankincense. The grades gradually deteriorate based on the size and the amount of impurities, such as bark infused into the resin. Low-quality frankincense is mainly sold for local market consumption, whereas grades one, two, three, and four are exported.

Zereu Aregehegn, Guna Trading PLC: “This one is called first grade A, and it is more expensive. We have put it in line based on their quality and grade standard here, and this one is expensive. Here we buy the unprocessed around 15,800 birr without VAT.”

Narrator: That means that at wholesale, this sack of first grade-A Ethiopian frankincense is worth about $430. Frankincense and myrrh have been burnt as incense for thousands of years, and both are …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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