In addition to understanding the distinctions between so-called “Genuine Mahogany” and African Mahogany, being a knowledgeable lumber customer means being aware of the availability and other issues relating to each of those species.
As we raise awareness and make informed decisions, we can ensure that the global market (and eco system) remain healthy and thriving for years to come.
The Trials of Genuine Mahogany
First, let’s consider what contributed to the decreased availability of Genuine Mahogany: high quality standards and resulting waste, increased regulations and emergence of NGOs, poorer sawing practices and a push for re-classification according NHLA guidelines.
All those involved issues combined to force even some of the most loyal Genuine Mahogany suppliers to stop carrying this precious species.
The Viability of African Mahogany
One positive result was the increased market for alternatives to Genuine Mahogany, and African Mahogany became a leading contender. Now, however, that market for African Mahogany is in jeopardy, as well — not for environmental reasons, but for economic ones.
What originally drew customers to African Mahogany, as an alternative to Genuine Mahogany, has come full circle. The lower prices and higher availability that attracted us to this lumber are in question.
The resulting continued price reductions have forced many mills to deal with profit levels so low that they simply can’t afford to stay in business. As they stop harvesting and milling as much African Mahogany, delays are the result. Because shipping in bulk is less expensive, when shipments are made, we have an abundance of African Mahogany for a while. Then, nothing. This constant shift in supply leads to great pricing fluctuations.
The Future of Sapele
Due to these economy-induced shortages, other alternatives to Genuine Mahogany are gaining in popularity. One such species is Sapele. The biggest downside to Sapele is its high price point. As pressures mount to make Sapele more affordable, it’s likely to have the same fate that African Mahogany has endured.
Like many other exotic species, added regulations cause delays and rising costs. As prices rise and lead times lengthen, the continued health of the market requires us to keep purchasing African Mahogany and be willing to pay enough to keep the mills in business. If we stop buying or the pricing wars continue, the supply chain may completely crumble, making this precious lumber inaccessible to us.
Maintaining the Supply Chain
Here at J. Gibson McIlvain, we’re in constant communication with African mills, endeavoring to work out solutions that will contribute to long-term healthy trade. With environmental concerns and current hold-ups in the supply chain, we don’t expect the situation to turn around overnight, but we’re hopeful for the future of these species.
In the mean time, other Mahogany alternatives include Sapele, Utile (or Sipo), and plantation-grown Fijian Mahogany. J. Gibson McIlvain anticipates the turnaround of the Mahogany market, while being committed to providing our customers with high-quality exotic hardwoods that truly make the grade.