Truth: Lumber Shortages Aren’t Always Due to Poor Forestry Management (Part 2).
Even though many assume that lumber shortages are always due to unsustainable forestry or lack of natural resources, such a concept is pure fiction, especially when it comes to current shortages of in-demand species such as African Mahogany.
Bearing some similarities to the Poplar market, the Mahogany shortage is due to forces within the lumber market, rather than forestry practices. Unlike Poplar, African Mahogany is a product of Africa, which means that the time lapse between increased demand and production — as well as production and actual arrival in North American ports — will be greater.
First, we need to realize that there’s plenty of African Mahogany available, and many mills are still cutting it. However, even for those mills, African Mahogany is not the primary species with which they work. Their reasoning is the same as those mills which have ceased production of Mahogany altogether: The market for African Mahogany has not been secure enough for them to safely produce it.
Part of the issue with the African Mahogany market is that it’s uniquely a North American market; the European market strongly favors Sapele, and much of the African hardwood lumber trade is still managed by Europe. Because of such of a niche consumer base, African Mahogany is risky business, even compared with other lumber markets.
Second, we need to understand that governmental regulation is geared toward more than sustainable forestry practices: It also shuts down forestry when it becomes unprofitable. When you add in factors such as spikes in oil and gas prices, the situation becomes even more complex (which leads to another strain of “Lumber Lore”).
Like it or not, the lumber industry — or any branch thereof — cannot continue without profit. As is the typical North American method of operation, prices of African Mahogany have been driven down for decades in order to allow for increased profits. Whenever a species reaches such ridiculously low costs, the market suffers, because mills are no longer turning a profit. Inflation causes production costs to continue to climb, causing the situation to become even more bleak.
With a global market for Utile and Sapele, most African mills are focusing on those more profitable and promising species.
The result on our end has been indefinitely delayed and cancelled shipments of African Mahogany. As we continue to seek out new suppliers and some mills continue to produce a limited amount of African Mahogany, we anticipate continual issues with sourcing this species. The only way African mills can make enough profit to make increasing their production of African Mahogany make sense is to have a steady demand that allows them to continually produce and ship larger quantities.
Unlike domestic species like Poplar, the production timeline for exotic species such as African Mahogany causes a more complicated scenario. As we continue to work with our African mills, we realize that patience and consistency will eventually help the market to recover.