We first published tropical hardwood lumber prices in the Weekly Hardwood Review shortly after its inception in 1985. Initially, our listings included only air-dried Select/Better and Common/Better Genuine Mahogany and Philippine Mahogany. Furniture plants purchased large volumes of Com/Btr Mahogany at that time, while much of the Sel/Btr went to distribution yards and architectural millwork firms. Pattern shops also used Mahogany to make castings for industrial parts.
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Tropical hardwood importing patterns have changed dramatically since then. The U.S. wood furniture industry is much smaller, demand for architectural millwork is relatively low, and many pattern shops have disappeared.
Meanwhile, over the last 15 years, Philippine Mahogany has virtually disappeared from U.S. markets, and imports of Genuine Mahogany have fallen over 80% in volume while more than doubling in price. Several countries have banned Genuine Mahogany exports altogether, including Brazil, once the leading producer.
Importers of tropical hardwoods are continuously introducing new species to replace those that have diminished in supply and/or skyrocketed in price. African Mahogany, Sapele and Spanish Cedar are now the most commonly used alternatives to Genuine Mahogany. However, Spanish Cedar is already going the way of Genuine Mahogany, and other mainline species could become scarce and more expensive when worldwide demand for hardwoods heats back up. What species will emerge as the next African Mahogany or Sapele? Stay tuned.
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