One of the primary timber species of export from South America is Genuine Mahogany also known as Big Leaf Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla). An excellent furniture wood and exterior species with a long history, Mahogany has faced competition from African alternate species and plantation grown species. Rising costs, quality, and availability have made Genuine Mahogany particularly susceptible to this competition. Now it faces yet another hurdle as the Bolivian CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) authorities, mostly through lack of funding, have not been keeping current with their non-detriment findings.
In it’s best grade, Mahogany has no equal. Bolivian Mahogany has gained a reputation for some of the finest quality Mahogany reminiscent of the golden age of Cuban Mahogany (Swietenia mahogani). Unfortunately, a recent CITES investigation declared Bolivian Mahogany to be out of compliance with their required non-detriment findings. Essentially this means that they were unable or unwilling to prove that current harvesting practices and rates would not threaten the sustainability of the species. Until Bolivia can produce non-detriment reports, the export quota of Mahogany will be zero. The rainy season demands that there be a definite shipping season running from June until November. It is highly likely that no Mahogany will be shipped at all in 2011.
Bolivia is a significant supplier to the US Mahogany market and with such a large void it is likely to cause a major shortage in quartersawn and pattern grade Genuine Mahogany. With a shortage comes higher prices on what is available not only for Mahogany but for likely alternatives like Sapele, Utile, Spanish Cedar, and African Mahogany.
From our perspective, the frustration lies in the fact that there are many responsible mills in Bolivia practicing responsible forestry practices. These mills have their documentation in order and export legally. J. Gibson McIlvain has done the due diligence and has several suppliers we trust. Over the years we have been building an inventory of FAS, Pattern, and Quarter Sawn Pattern grade Genuine Mahogany as well as other Genuine alternatives like Sapele, Utile/Sipo, Spanish Cedar, and African (Khaya) Mahogany. We are working to be able to continue to provide top quality Mahogany despite this shortage.
We will post more on CITES and the Lacey Act and how it effects the lumber trade soon. Needless to say, if you are buying imported lumber anywhere in the supply chain, you should know where it came from and that documentation is in order as we are all liable and responsible for protecting these natural resources.