The ever-growing demand for tropical hardwoods mixed with the shrinking supply of old-growth timber has give rise to what is commonly referred to as plantation teak. Over the past few decades, forward-thinking entrepreneurs have begun cultivating teak and other hardwoods on commercially viable, often FSC-certified, plantations across the dry tropical regions of the globe. Ideally suited for cultivation due to its favorable construction properties and relatively short growth period (20 years), many plantations including Proteak choose to plant the most common species of teak, Tectona grandis.
Proteak’s plantations along Mexico’s Pacific coast serve to both alleviate the stress on Southeast Asia’s tropical forests while offering a source of eco-friendly timber located in North America. This is important, not only because plantation teak offers consumers numerous ecological benefits, but because the shorter shipping distances and reliability of the product makes plantation teak more cost-effective than old-growth Burmese teak. In fact, the cost is often half that of the old-growth variety.
The cultivation of teak on plantations can be carried out sustainably by utilizing modern forestry management techniques, ensuring a high-quality and renewable supply of timber for future generations of teak lovers. Additionally, teak plantations have the ability to sequester massive amounts of manmade greenhouse emissions. For example, the 8,000 acres currently under cultivation by Proteak captures the CO2 of 20,000 cars each day.
Proteak’s plantations are purposefully situated in dry tropical regions that closely mimic the precipitation and soil characteristics of the top-producing teak forests of Asia. As a result, these trees can be cultivated without the use of irrigation. This offers two primary benefits. First, it gives our plantation teak the same exotic grain patterns and durability that teak wood is famous for. Second, the lack of irrigation reduces the ecological footprint of our teak forestry operations.
Despite rumors to the contrary (often originating from those who wish to protect Asia’s grip on the Teak trade), studies conducted by the USDA and India’s Forest Research Institute have found that teak grown on plantations has equivalent, if not identical properties to the teak grown in Southeast Asia’s old-growth forests; it’s certainly every bit as beautiful. And just like the old-growth teak imported from Southeast Asia, plantation teak possesses the same oily resins that resist moisture, termites, warping, and fungi.
In other words, when cultivated properly, plantation teak is the same unique and stunning building material preferred by shipbuilders, furniture makers and carpenters for centuries. The primary difference is that it doesn’t contribute to the destruction of Asia’s rainforests or finance Burma’s oppressive military junta.
Since Burma is home to not only the world’s last primary teak forests, but also one of the world’s most oppressive military regimes, many have come to label teak sourced from this area “conflict timber.” Although the US Treasury Department has issued trade sanction that outlaw Burmese teak, much of this illegal timber is imported into the United States via Burma’s neighbors such as China or India.
If the unchecked destruction of Burma’s rain forests doesn’t give you pause, the human rights abuses that the teak trade helps finance no doubt will. Plantation teak offers an eco-friendly and socially-conscious source of top-quality teak at a lower cost.