The term High-Grade Tropical Hardwood is understood to mean the wood of quality broadleaf species such as teak, mahogany, rosewood, ebony and other timbers that are used for top-of-the-range end uses like boat building, quality indoor and garden furniture, interior decor, panelling, decking, carving, etc. These woods are sometimes called luxury woods, cabinet woods or speciality timbers.

Good soil - protective cover under teak
“On sites that are composed of deep, well drained soils of moderate to high fertility, ground cover is normally adequate - even under teak monocultures”

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Shot of certified teak
“Within some certification schemes, private growers can incorporate out-growers so that they can become fully certified at reduced costs”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN, “… the area of high-grade hardwood plantations grew steadily in the 1960s. The focus of planting shifted later in that decade to softwood plantations for the production of pulp and paper. Later still, non-industrial plantations became more important. Between the late 1960s and the late 1970s the annual rate of establishment of plantations in the humid tropics was about 0.7 million hectares. But the share of high-grade hardwood plantations fell from 33 to just 13 percent ...” (see: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/006/AC124E/AC124E00.pdf )

The three most widely planted high-grade hardwood species are:

  1. Teak (Tectona grandis); widely planted throughout the tropics
  2. Rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo); mainly in Asia
  3. Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla); mainly in Asia and Oceania.

These species are distinguished from other fast-growing ‘hardwood’ plantations like Acacia or Eucalyptus which are grown on short rotations for relatively low value uses like fuel or fibre. The latter do not possess the same power to relieve pressure on indigenous tropical forests or provide the same returns as the true high-grade tropical hardwoods.

In recent years there has been somewhat of a renaissance in the planting of high-grade tropical hardwoods, particularly teak, especially by private entities. These schemes have been supported by retail investors. Unfortunately, many of the schemes have proved to be of dubious substance and many have failed. More recently, institutional investors are taking an interest in high-grade tropical hardwoods.

The community sector has not been involved in these schemes but all stakeholders stand to gain where legitimate undertakings incorporate them into these developments.

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