Tropical Timber Trends - Bottlenecks and Solutions

Bottlenecks and Solutions for Tropical Timbers
There are numerous roadblocks to buying a container of tropical wood and having it go smoothly and profitably. In order to avoid problems you have to identify the potential problems and decide if they can be solved and at what cost. Having wood sawn properly and then kiln dried and possibly planed are not easy to get done in many places in South America. Today I will offer a potential solution that is possible now because of reduced logistics costs. I recently sold a truckload of lumber from Ontario to BC. The trucking cost alone was US$8000. I can send a container from Toronto to Vietnam and then to BC for about US$5000. From many places in South America, the price from there to Vietnam and then to western US or Canadian ports is about US$3000. If processing is required, Vietnam has the world’s largest wood products industry and can provide sawing, drying and planning/sanding at very competitive rates. And done properly, to the standards we expect.
So, a buyer in North America can purchase a container of logs from South America, send them to Vietnam, get them sawn to spec, kiln dried, sorted, planed, sanded or even profiled and then shipped to North America. As an example, a container of large Raintree or Monkey Pod logs (30 to 50 inch diameters) is available for around US$10,000. Sending it to Vietnam and turning it into kiln dried live edge slabs, and planed to thickness and then sent to a western port would cost about US$12,000. You would have about 7000 to 8000 bd ft of properly kiln dried, planed, sanded live edge slabs for $22,000. Is $3 bd ft for slabs ready to sell worthwhile? Time frame would be 3 to 4 months. You would have to pay for the logs when they ship, pay for costs on Vietnam before it ships from there. You need to be properly financed to do this. Due diligence must be performed prior to doing something like this, but it is not very difficult to do it successfully when you put the time into it. The picture is from a company in Vietnam I know that processes for the Japan and South Korea markets and can process for companies here
This is possible with any species where logs can be purchased. Many countries restrict log exports, but most allow plantation logs to be exported. I have reliable contacts in many countries in South America and excellent contacts in Vietnam. I can help arrange a variety of species and services for anyone that is seriously interested. Not every species can be done like this. The cost, time frame and logistics have to work. Lower value species are rarely worth it. Higher value species can be very worthwhile.
Bottlenecks can be opportunities. If you have a creative solution to a problem, you can help everyone in the chain thrive. Who doesn’t like making more money and having fewer problems?


@Dallin_Brooks and @JOHN_HESTER have you been following @Marv_Vandermeer 's posts? They are so detailed and amazing!
Marv are you a member of NHLA? The North American Hardwood Lumber Association? These guys are also super knowledgeable and know everyone in the trade!


Why is it difficult to get wood sawn, dried, and planed in South America ?


a lack of kilns is the biggest problem.
Most wood for domestic use is air dried.
if it is kiln dried, they will dry to 10-12%, which is ok fr Asia or EU, but we want 6 to 8%.
Big companies with kilns just use them for themselves.
People with kilns for hire might not be able to dry them to 6-8%, or just don’t check.

also a lack of good planers. To plane a lot of tropical species you need spiral head with carbide inserts or you will get more tear out and blades will become dull fast

the overall issue is a lack of investment and a lack of training to understand what is required to bring the wood to the standards we need.

There are proper mills, kilns and planers there. Just not enough of them.


Sounds like there is a promising business opportunity for someone to fill the void.


hi Nadia

I am not a member of NHLA. But it is something I will look at. I have their grading books and kiln drying books. Very helpful


I think for someone who has some wood knowledge and wants to move to a tropical country it is a great business model. Simple business that will always have more demand than you can supply. And the kiln owner becomes a central figure in the wood business and that will lead to a lot more opportunities.


@Michael_Fincham or @Neill_Gibson Can your dry Kilns to solve this issue?

@Alexander_Ugolini how about your planers?

If anyone is looking to take advantage of the opportunity mentioned above by @Marv_Vandermeer, then who might be a good person to contact?


Also, where would you recommend they set up shop? South America (or even Brazil) is a big place. Thanks


first consideration will be to have a safety and comfort factor for the country. Everyone will rate that differently. I would not recommend Brazil since it has a large, established wood industry and you would have no advantage there. Places like Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, Columbia, Suriname, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru have good wood available and have need for kilns and value added processing. I would not go some place where you have no contacts, unless you are very adventurous. But adventure and profit rarely mix well. Operation should be set up close to a port, so that logistics are efficient. Someone would need to plan well, study the situation, visit a new place to check it out first.


Hi Dallin and John

I have been trying to put together a Tropical Timber Training Seminar for producers in Latin America. There is so much waste, so much inefficiency, so much wood cut the wrong way, so many people who don’t produce to the standards we need, little understanding of how to grade, etc.
I would think that something that involves a well established org like the NHLA could be extremely beneficial and would help the NHLA get a bigger presence in Latin America.

are you open to a discussion about this?


@Dallin_Brooks @JOHN_HESTER Does NHLA serve members in the Tropical Hardwood Industry?


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