Cuba: Will Wood Products Industries Soon See Opportunity?
December 21, 2014 | 1:16 pm CST
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In Cuba, wood industry opportunities will have to wait until Congress acts on trade restrictions. With diplomatic relations normalized last week by the White House, however, it's likely tourism will grow, affecting U.S. hospitality furniture manufacturers most directly.

Cuba: Will Wood Products Industries Soon See Opportunity?With 3 million tourists now, it is expected that lifting U.S. travel restrictions will bring another 1 million tourists annually to Cuba. U.S. travelers tend to like to stay in U.S.-style hotels.

Cuba has relied on the generosity of its benefactor nations, China and Russia, which keep it afloat despite a chronic trade imbalance. It exports $1.6 billion in goods and services, and importants $6 billion annually.

In wood products Cuba is closer but not in parity on export and import values: importing $30.8 million in wood products, and exporting $22 million, mostly charcoal. Despite being a forested land, Cuba buys the lumber and panel it needs for construction, some shipped from Pensacola, FL on a cash sales basis required by the U.S. government. It also buys utility poles from the U.S.

In 2012, IKEA was embarrased by a report that it had tested wood product manufacturing by Cuban prison laborers two decades ago. IKEA didn't end up sourcing there over quality issues. Cuba along with Honduras is a prized sourced for straight grain mahogany free of voids and pockets. 

Cuba also has a domestic manufacture and consumption of carpentry, cabinetry and furniture making. As the government liberalized the economy, Cubans were still being restricted on forming woodworking businesses. While carpenters are among 124 "officially authorized careers for self-employment" in Cuba, woodworkers were allowed only to repair existing furniture or build custom furniture, though small-scale factory cooperatives are believed to already be engaged in furniture building. The Italian wood machinery manufacturers say they are more closely looking at Cuba's market potential in 2015.

In the MIT data charts below, Cuba's wood product imports and exports are represented in the small red squares in the lower right.

Source: MIT  










Forestry in Cuba: Trends in removals of wood products 1990-2005

Total volume (1 000 m3 over bark)
1990 2000 2005 percent of which from forest 2005
577 687 639 -
Total volume (1 000 m3 over bark)
1990 2000 2005 percent of which from forest 2005
2512 1746 1588 -

Cuba: Value of wood and NWFP removals 2005

Value of removals
(million US$)
Value per ha forest
Industrial roundwood Woodfuel NWFP Total
108 16 1 125 n.s.

Cuba: Employment in forestry 1990-2005

(1000 full-time employees)
1990 2000 2005
- - 45
(1000 full-time employees)
1990 2000 2005
- - 38
(1000 full-time employees)
1990 2000 2005
- - 7

Table source: Mongabay Rainforest Site

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