The global teak production landscape has changed drastically over the last decade. Since the 19th century, global teak supply has primarily involved only a handful of nations, namely, Myanmar, Thailand, India and Laos. However, among the four countries, only Myanmar, the sole remaining naturally grown teak supplier, currently still exports teak. In fact, the country’s exports account for 75% of the world teak trade. Thailand and India have both banned teak logs export, while Laos have almost exhausted its rainforest teak. Even Myanmar is trying to reduce its export of teak logs, and instead, shift into manufacturing teak furniture locally, which will yield higher returns for the nation. Its alarmingly high deforestation rate, which saw forest coverage dwindling from 57% in 1990 to 38% in 2014 also contributed to the decision.
However, new exporters are emerging to boost the international teak trade, courtesy of planted teak, which are arguably the most widely cultivated high-value crop in the world today. There are currently about 6.8 million square hectares of teak plantation in African and Latin American countries, which are mainly owned by government agencies and large multinational corporations. They are currently already exporting in excess of $700 million worth of teak annually. Growth is forecasted to be robust in the coming years as new trees mature.
Massive investments made over the last three decades have seen countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast in Africa, and Ecuador, Nicaragua and Panama in Latin America, emerge as powerful new teak-exporting nations. Latin American nations are viewed to be in a better position to market their products to first world nations compared to their African rivals owing to the former’s higher certification focus.
Surprisingly, India remains as the largest importer of teak logs, while the United States is the top importer of finished teak furniture.