Kerala’s timber market sustained by imports

February 17th, 2008 - 1:32 pm ICT by admin  

By Jeevan Mathew Kurian
Kozhikode (Kerala), Feb 17 (IANS) Kerala may be one of the greenest states in India with about 28 percent of its total area covered by forests but it is dependent on imports, especially from Southeast Asia, for timber. The imported timber is popularly called Malaysian wood. But according to timber traders, it is mostly sourced from Myanmar.

With the construction business booming, wood is scarce in the state although 11,124 sq km of its 38,863 sq km area is forested. Tiber traders say the quantity of wood provided by the Kerala forest department is not sufficient to meet even 25 percent of the demand.

“The department mostly supplies teakwood. We buy it through auctions,” said A. Jayarajan, who has been working as a timber merchant in Kozhikode for the last four decades.

The cost of teakwood timber is above Rs.2,500 per cubic foot.

“The price varies according to the quality of teakwood. It can go up to Rs.4,000. The timber market is a sellers’ market. Wood is scarce and demand is high,” Jayarajan told IANS.

It has been 20 years since ‘Malaysian wood’ started reaching the Kerala coast.

“Mangalore and Tuticorin ports are the chief entry points for the wood to south India. Now, 75 percent of our timber needs are met through imports,” said V. Sherif, proprietor of Hillwood Import Exports Private Limited.

“Wood is arriving from all parts of the world, even from South America. But the majority of the imported wood is sourced from Myanmar. Pincoda wood constitutes most of the import. People in north Kerala prefer this Malaysian wood. In the south people are going for another variety that we call Violet,” Sherif added.

Pincoda is brownish red in colour. “Pincoda is the variety that sells the most here. I don’t know the tree’s botanical name. This wood is like our own Irul,” said M.P. Ahammed Koya, owner of Puthiyara Timbers. Irul’s botanical name is Xylia xylocarpa.

Pincoda timber costs Rs.1,100 to 1,200 per cubic foot.

“It is the arrival of Malaysian wood that has brought down the price of wood in the local market,” Koya added.

But Jayarajan disagrees. “The price of wood, whether it is local or imported, is ruling high as the commodity is scarce,” he said.

“The Malaysian hardwood is good in quality and costs much less than local wood,” said Babu Cherian, an architect.

“Carpenters prefer this imported wood as it is good to work with,” he added.

(Jeevan Mathew Kurian can be contacted at

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