July 2014 marks a landmark decision in the long-time saga surrounding the Myanmar Teak market. On the heels of a logging ban, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) is allowing members of the International Wood Products Association (IWPA) to import wood directly from the Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE).
The granting of this license means more than short-term increased availability of Teak; it also provides for long-term reform of Myanmar’s timber industry: The license actually requires those holding it to take an active role in the improvement of sustainability. As a long-time member of the IWPA, J. Gibson McIlvain is eager to be able to impact this important market.
In earlier days, the forests of Myanmar were the epitome of sustainability when they were managed by the British government. With the country’s transition to military government rule came lack of maintenance, causing the forests to suffer in recent decades. Between embargoes and political upheavals, any offers of outside intervention had been met with opposition. With the new government in place, Myanmar is welcoming help from both the IWPA and the European and Australian Timber Trade.
One of the major shifts within the Myanmar timber trade is a transition from exporting logs to exporting already-sawn lumber. The introduction of sawmills provides a major change, as does the new license. We’re hopeful that the dialogue being encouraged about modern sustainability and quality standards will assist Myanmar in making a smooth and positive transition that will benefit both their local economy and the health of the Teak forests.
In addition to helping reform the Teak industry on Myanmar, those given the IWPA license will have some responsibilities to help promote the nation’s lesser-known species. While Teak is the primary lumber product coming out of Myanmar, many other excellent species are nearly unknown within the US market. By helping diversify the usage and building new markets for those species, we will be able to eliminate waste and encourage the health of the ecosystem.
One of the most significant provisions of the license is a clearly defined import process for Teak. However, the remaining potential positives are just that: They give us a place card at the table, but the results of the discussion are still at the discretion of the Myanmar government. They remain responsible to ensure Lacey Acct compliance and police the legality of local and international import regulations. When the license comes up for renewal next July, the degree to which those holding it have adhered to its provisions will, no doubt, be a key factor in its future.
Regardless of the limitations of the license, it still means good news for all those who buy and use this precious species. It may not be the final answer to the dilemma, but it’s at least a step in the right direction.
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.
Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.
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