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May 17, 2021

Beech – the underappreciated resource for furniture manufacturing

We are all well aware of the strongly increased prices of various rough sawn timber species such as Oak, Tulipwood (aka Yellow Poplar), Ash, and all types of softwoods such as Pine and Spruce, Fir, etc., which almost doubled. Many of our South East Asian customers face huge challenges due to these extremely high prices and the short supply.

Most of these manufacturers produce medium quality furniture and cannot increase their furniture prices equivalent to the increased raw material prices. The Asian furniture industry faces fierce competition; too many suppliers offer the same range of products; hence it remains a buyers’ market.

The manufacturers are searching for alternative raw materials, and some have resumed using Rubberwood which is still available in decent volumes, especially in Malaysia and Thailand. Others have resumed using local plantation species such as Merkusii Pine from Sumatra, Indonesia, Acacia or Eucalyptus in Vietnam.

Almost daily, we receive enquiries asking for recommendations of alternative imported species, and we believe that European Beech is an excellent species to make up for the loss. Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is available in abundance in Europe, and rough sawn timber prices remain pretty stable. I have always called Beech “the Rubberwood of Europe” since the usage of Beech in Europe has been as popular and widespread as Rubberwood in South East Asia. Beech is a medium-density hardwood and very strong timber; the grain is closed, easy to machine and can be finished in any colour, stain or paint. Beech is available in a wide range of thicknesses from 25 to 80mm, graded mainly on the presence of knots and red heart, and supplied in short, medium and long lengths. An extra advantage is that many of the European Beech forests are either PEFC or FSC certified. Our expectation is a drastic increase in the demand for Beech starting the 2nd quarter of this year, which could well mean a revival of the use of Beech similar to the early 1990s.