Tropical Timber Trends

The Plantation Teak Market.

The industry standard for teak remains Burma teak. By all measures, it is the highest quality teak in the market and there seems to be a lack of quality replacements. It is also hard to get due to a combination of sanctions on the main government timber agency responsible for exporting it and a decline in the available stocks in the country. Apparently (and not shockingly) the sanctions have been not difficult to work around and there are still supplies reaching the US. The buyers have come under scrutiny for it, so we shall see if there is enough pressure put on them to stop. But even with some of the Burma teak reaching the US through loopholes (and worse) there is a shortage of high quality teak available for boat builders and others who require top grade teak.
There are many teak plantations in South America and Africa. But these plantations are usually cut at 15 to 20 years old and the trees do not have the same characteristics as 60 year old, mature teak. The oils have not fully developed that help give teak its stability and natural durability. And the plantations are set up to encourage very rapid growth and want a faster return on their investment. Too many teak plantation schemes have promised big returns after 20 years and too many investors have not planned to hold this for longer. Instead of tight, strong growth rings, there are much fewer growth rings per inch and this is rejected by the boat building industry. And since the trees are cut young, the sizes are smaller, the grade is lower and there is too much sapwood on the boards. The industry has reacted by promoting this as Tiger Teak and with some other clever names, but it does not make it a quality product and it has not been a big success to date. Any sapwood cannot be used outside as it will quickly rot and degrade. There also seems to be a wide price range, with some ambitious sellers trying to get close to Burma Teak prices.
There are some sources of good quality plantation teak, but these are rare and in short supply. 25 to 35 year old teak can be found and there are a few 40 to 60 year old teak plantations that can come close to the Burma teak in quality. The picture I have attached to this post is from 60+ year old plantation teak and has 28 growth rings in 2 inches of thickness.
So, it you want to buy teak, make sure the teak you buy is suited for your project or your customer. Even lower quality teak won’t be cheap, but if it does not have the qualities required, it will end up being very expensive.



Another great post @Marv_Vandermeer!