Teak has been seen as an extremely versatile and popular wood for hundreds of years thanks to its unique properties. Used to build everything from boats to quality furniture to mine props, teak has seen fashions for various different kinds of timber come and go, yet still remains in constant demand. Why? Because of its properties as an exceptional hardwood that works well in all kinds of different uses and environments. The teak that is grown in Ghana is known as Tectona Grandis or more commonly, ‘West African Teak.’ One of the reasons it is used so widely for outdoor products and in construction is because of its resistance to termites. Similarly, teak is used a lot in underground building projects and in coastal projects because it has extremely high levels of water resistance. Again, this is why it is used so often when building boats and boat decking, particularly as teak is not just resistant to water, but also salt-water. Lastly, teak has incredible vertical strength – greater even than concrete or steel. It is for all these reasons that teak is considered to be a premium timber.
Indeed, Teak has always been recognised as a premium timber. It was originally native to Burma and found growing in small pockets in South East Asia. However, in 1913 it was also transplanted into plantations in West Africa and since then has thrived. Teak has proven to be extremely well suited to the plantations of Ghana, thanks to both the climate and terrain, not to mention the high combustion point of the wood – which means it is resistant to annual forest fires even when the trees are very young.
Similarly, whenever large volumes of teak have been released onto the market, the fear has always arisen that the price of wholesale timber will be significantly reduced. Yet this has rarely, if ever, happened. The worldwide appetite for timber is always growing and the constant (and well-managed) availability of high-quality hardwood teak not only maintains its value, it also helps to reduce the global pressures on natural forests and cut down on illegal logging. Because teak is now available to be used in areas that were previously unable to use it (because of expense), hardwoods from natural forests are no longer being extracted so urgently.
History has shown us that the global demand for timber will always grow and grow – thanks to an ever-expanding middle class, an ever-increasing global population needing housing and countries such as China and India demanding more and more of the luxuries that have been staples in the west for so long. This demand will be all the more acute as climate change requires us to protect more and more forests and plant more and more trees. Thankfully, the teak industry can manage this demand whilst still playing an essential role in climate change – by providing a never-ending supply of quality hardwood teak and simultaneously regenerating the forests in the reserve.