Brazil is the main supplying country in the whole of the South American continent and South American hardwoods available are Ipe, Massaranduba, Cumaru and Red Louro.
West African hardwood species available include Sapele, Iroko, Utile and Emeri.
Iroko first began to make inroads into the UK market in the Seventies as a substitute for teak, the ubiquitous timber for fashionable furniture in that decade. As a cheaper alternative displaying similar characteristics in golden coloration and high durability, it soon extended its application into doors, garden furniture, joinery products and decking for boats. It has now found its way into worktops for the kitchen market and external cladding in modern architecture.
The uniformity of colour and rich red tones of Utile are suited to general purpose joinery. Utile is a high quality timber that machines and finishes well and has established itself as an alternative to Brazilian hardwood.
The vast majority of Sapele is imported from Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Braziville (the former French Congo) and the Central African Republic. Iroko is sourced from the Ivory Coast, Ghana and the Cameroon. West Africa made its debut on the global timber scene in the late sixties but its supply capabilities have proved dependent on the stability of its political infrastructure. Whilst this may at times hamper continuity of supply, it does not detract from the sheer beauty of the species available.
Far Eastern hardwood species available include Dark Red Meranti, Dark Red Seraya, Keruing and Yellow Balau.
Malaysia has many thousands of species of trees, yet no more than a small selection of timbers are used commercially. It has harnessed this most natural of resources to become the world’s fifth largest producer of tropical timbers. Conservation is regulated at national level through state forest management and conservation laws and there are many protected areas including national parks, wildlife reserves and virgin jungle reserves.
Meranti and Keruing are among the main species of tropical red hardwoods exported to the UK from Malaysia. Meranti has long enjoyed a reputation as a competitively priced red hardwood, boosted also by its availability in dimension stock.
It is widely used in the manufacture of doors conservatories, as well as general joinery, whilst the high durability characteristics of Keruing gives it a niche market use as base boards in trailer manufacturing.
Indonesia has more monsoon and tropical rainforest than any other country in the Asian continent offering a diversity of species for commercial use. A characteristic feature of the majority of the machined dark redwood species imported in to the UK is their high degree of colour uniformity. Rough sawn material from Indonesia is however relatively insignificant, stifled by heavy export duties. Timber does however represent one of the country’s largest exports with the government encouraging more added value processing and the export of value added goods.