The scenario for Genuine Mahogany definitely has its challenges, and those of us within the lumber industry have a responsibility to consider various solutions. Brainstorming is good. Ideas deserve to be considered. At the same time, though, we need to carefully evaluate each proposed change in light of the issues surrounding the long-term health of Mahogany forests and the lumber industry, at large. When it comes to changing up the grading situation for Mahogany, we need to do just that.
Basics of Grading Standard Shifts
As some within the industry have considered possible solutions to the current dilemma of lower quality Mahogany, the idea of utilizing NHLA grading standards has come up. With potential positives like helping level the playing field for exotic and domestic lumber products in North America, the concept seems to have some merit. At first.
When you consider the reasons for various grading systems, it makes a little less sense. For one thing, the industry has always used a distinctive grading system for tropical lumber species, due to their unusual growing patterns and sizes. By contrast, NHLA standards were created for the furniture industry. If those standards were applied to tropical hardwoods, the result would be more defects allowed into each board and, by extension, more lumber allowed into each grading category. While apparently quality would be increased, it would actually remain the same.
Pros and Cons of Using NHLA Guidelines
Because the NHLA guidelines were created with furniture makers in mind, they do have their place. However, they are unhelpful in determining the suitability of lumber for milled products or other applications, when defect-free boards are necessary. Since Genuine Mahogany is no longer used exclusively — or even primarily — for furniture, the grading shift would lead to waste.
If the change were to take place, more boards would pass as FAS and would likely be purchased for applications for which they would be unsuitable — such as millwork, for instance. The result would be no less waste; the only change would be that the waste would occur on someone else’s dime. It would actually be healthier for the forests to have fewer trees harvested, sawn, and exported, than to artificially inflate the grades of the lumber produced.
Short-Term Effects of Implementing NHLA Guidelines
At first, the Genuine Mahogany market would probably benefit, because fewer boards would be rejected due to failure to meet grade requirements. The mills themselves, the NGOs assisting in conservation efforts by CITES, and the South American governments offering concessions would all start making more money. But many boards would sit in lumber yards or on job sites, with frustrated customers unable to use the wood for their intended projects. In another article, we’ll more fully examine the long-term effects of applying NHLA guidelines to Mahogany.