African Lumber Species and Sustainability

For exotic hardwood lumber aficionados, African species are part of a bad news/good news scenario. The bad news is that as the available supply of popular South American lumber species such as Genuine Mahogany continues to dwindle, the prices tend to skyrocket. The good news is that several comparable African species are comparatively plentiful. Realizing the problems with the South American lumber market actually makes the African market preferable in many ways.

Even though Africa has become infamous for unethical logging practices regarding expeptionally exotic species, such as Ebony, most African lumber species- species such as African Mahogany, Afromosia, Sapele, Utile, and Wenge- are actually quite well regulated. When you receive your African lumber from a direct importer such as McIlvain Lumber Company, you can be sure that you’re receiving high quality lumber from an exceptionally above-board supply chain. What’s more, you’ll be getting it for the best price possible.

While African exports are generally managed by Europeans, McIlvain Company directly imports the lumber that we sell. If, as with other lumber suppliers, your order has come from Africa by way of Europe, it will have been marked up by each of 3 or 4 middlemen, increasing the price you pay. What this translates into is lower quality lumber for the same price you could pay for the premium lumber supplied through a direct importer like McIlvain. Because we refuse to accept sub-par lumber, you won’t find the least expensive boards at our lumber yard; you will, however, find the best lumber for your money, dollar for dollar and board foot for board foot.

As far as determining the quality of African lumber species, the system is actually better than that of the North American FSC system. Certification programs are strong, as well. Combine that with the quality control practices of McIlvain’s lumber specialists, including on-site evaluation and thorough supply chain research and documentation, and you can be sure that what you’re getting is sustainably grown, ethically harvested, and legally exported.

Concerns over dwindling supply and unethical practices have prompted many woodworkers to shun exotic species. Instead of saving forests, however, decreasing demand for exotic lumbers by avoiding their use actually leads to repurposing of the land.  The people who sell their exotic lumber need a market for their trees; even the most noble forestry management enterprise cannot afford to continue in the forestry business with continually decreasing lumber values.

When markets boycott these exotic lumbers, the result in most cases is that instead of continuing to be used for logging and replanting, the land will instead be burned. Because the landowners need to find a new source of income, they generally choose to destroy their trees to make room for cattle farming and other agricultural pursuits. In fact, cattle ranches are currently the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon.

In order to continue to promote the health of Africa’s rainforests, it is imperative that we continue to support the well-regulated and properly managed lumber sources. Respecting these natural resources means continuing to use them. When you purchase African lumber (or any lumber product) from J. Gibson McIlvain, you can always ask for documentation and concrete assurance of a well-regulated original source and supply chain. This dedication to sustainability and direct sourcing is part of what has kept McIlvain an industry leader for over 200 years. For more information on the lumber industry or McIlvain’s current supply, click here to visit them online, or check out the following selections from their blog:

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