The Ups and Downs of Importing Exotic Hardwood Flooring

By Ben Nystrom, 11/02/10

You may not realize it, but the exotic hardwood flooring industry has had a rough year. An already volatile import, the past 12 – 16 months has seen extreme fluctuations in both availability and pricing for exotic hardwood. Hardwood Floors magazine published an interesting article by Guillermo Figari on what has caused the roller coaster that was the past year. Here are some highlights:

Procurement Problems

It's not always easy to get exotic hardwood flooring material. According to Figari, local lumber mills in some areas in Brazil control a vast majority of the production capacity, setting a false price point and forcing companies to go to different areas to source for species.

"It is imperative for us to always have a backup plan when sourcing for different species, because procuring exotic flooring at any time is not cut and dry," Figari wrote. "There is the usual rule of supply and demand, but importers also have to take into account what local powerhouses some mills are within their regions."

Pricing Puzzles

The U.S. dollar lost value in South America last year, creating an almost immediate price increase from Brazilian suppliers. Figari elaborates:

"This coincided with the slowing U.S. economy, so even if importers were able to justify the price increases, the market simply could not bear it. Additionally, the largest importers still had large inventories and were liquidating them to generate cash flow."

Dwindling Supply

Not only is procuring exotic hardwood flooring material more difficult than it was two years ago, but the supply is also dwindling. The Amazon rainy season, a strong Asian purchasing campaign, and a reduction in mill purchasing capacities has led to a scarce lumber supply.

It Will (May?) Get Better

Figari paints a pretty grim picture of the current exotic hardwood import industry, but also offers a glimmer of hope:

"Importers must have real customer service and make sure that we have several mills available to meet our demand. In the past, when we could not find a competitive price in Brazil for cumaru, we would source from Peru or Bolivia. Right now options are running out and demand is growing every day. We can just hope for the best, keep a positive mindset and try to be as competitive as possible."

By Ben Nystrom, 11/02/10

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