Since July 2014, buying genuine Burmese Teak has become much simpler. Industry leaders partnering with the International Wood Products Association (IWPA) have secured Teak exporting licensure allowing direct exporting from Myanmar. This allows for a far simpler buying process, because according to the provisions of the licensure, all exported lumber is required to come from the Myanmar Timber Export (MTE) and reference the IWPA number, to which only IWPA members have access. This scenario makes discovering the legality of Teak lumber much easier than it was in the past.
In order to establish whether the Teak you’re considering buying is actually legal, there are three questions you need to ask.
1. Who is the Importer of Record for the lumber in question, and are they a member of the IWPA?
2. Did the lumber in question originate from the MTE?
3. In the import paperwork, is the IWPA license number referenced?
To any of the above questions, “no” or “I’m not sure” are not legitimate answers. If you hear anything but confident responses and offers to provide the documentation to back them up, you need to walk away. Don’t ask again; don’t collect $200. With the Lacey Act holding everyone along the supply chain responsible for legality, you really don’t want to take a risk just to save a few bucks. Instead, make sure you’re dealing with only trusted importers who can provide documentation to back up the entire chain of custody. As an Importer of Record, J. Gibson McIlvain can easily ensure the legality of all the lumber we supply. Working with such an importer that can provide chain-of-custody documentation is extremely important under the current laws.
Even though the license provided to members of the IWPA has allowed J. Gibson McIlvain an opportunity to influence Teak exporting, it in no way guarantees that all imported Teak will be legally imported. Many regulations from international and local entities must be adhered to in order to be in full compliance with Lacey Act regulations. When purchasing Teak or any other species of lumber from Myanmar, it’s especially important to make sure all your i’s are dotted and your t’s crossed.
We’re proud to have been able to participate with the IWPA in obtaining the Teak license, and as always, we’re happy to educate others about lumber legality or anything else about this situation that seems foggy to you. If you’ve decided to consider other lumber suppliers, make sure to ask the three questions we mentioned above before purchasing Teak from any supplier. In the end, these murky waters will give way to only good things for Teak customers; the Burmese government has taken a major step toward a stronger Teak market, making it a more reliable resource for the future.