Equatoria teak – is it an acceptable alternative to Burma teak?

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Equatoria teak launched by C Leary & Co

Is this story as good as it sounds? Here’s a press release we received this week:

Wednesday 26th March 2008

The Equatoria Teak Company and C Leary & Co Ltd have today launched Equatoria teak, the first genuine alternative to Burma teak for use in marine decking.

C Leary & Co managing director Simon Kloos said, ‘The marine industry is experiencing an unprecedented level of uncertainty caused by EU sanctions banning the direct import of Burma teak, with boat builders increasingly concerned about the security of supply and the public acceptability of Burma teak.’

Equatoria teak’s slow growth rate and growing conditions are unique. The timber is dense, tight and close grained, straight and oily – all characteristics found in Burma teak, but lacking in virtually all plantation teaks. Mr Kloos added, ‘The superior quality of Equatoria teak guarantees it can meet the exacting technical and performance demands of yacht decking, giving boat builders confidence in maintaining teak as the deck of first choice. The fact that it will be certified, with Verified Progress (VP) certification leading quickly to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, will also answer any environmental concerns.’

Wattsons Decking, the UK’s largest marine decking producers, have sampled and run some test decking using Equatoria teak. Co-founder Alan Watts said, ‘We have tried many alternatives to Burma teak and have found them wanting. Equatoria teak has surprised us, easily matching, if not surpassing, Burma teak. With the present pressures on Burma teak, we and our clients have been searching for a viable alternative of at least the same quality and with an acceptable environmental provenance. In these respects, Equatoria teak exceeded our expectations and promises to be the solution the marine industry has been looking for.’

With the UK and Finnish Government development funds as the major investors in the sourcing and production of Equatoria Teak, economic stability and continuity of supply are guaranteed both to the venture and to the source.

Under production from May-June 2008, Equatoria teak will be marketed exclusively by C Leary & Co, a company with more than 130 years’ experience in supplying teak to the marine industry worldwide. Simon Kloos, who has 30 years’ experience in teak said, ‘We can now provide a solution to the problem yacht manufacturers in Europe are facing. Equatoria teak offers continuity, stability and world-leading environmental credentials without compromising on the quality, suitability and sustainability of the teak for marine decking.’

Answers on a postcard please – though don’t bother to mention the un-needed hyperbole, as I can see that already!

I suppose the best clue is the pending FSC certificate. If these trees grow so slowly, this must be a long-standing project indeed, and the plantations involved must be many decades old.

In the meantime, what do you think of this – one of Francois Vivier’s lovely small boats – but built entirely in teak. That’s showing off a bit, isn’t it, unless you happen to find a big pile at the back of your garage? It makes a very handsome little boat though…

7 thoughts on “Equatoria teak – is it an acceptable alternative to Burma teak?”

  1. This stuff comes from Africa, mainly Tanzania and Southern Sudan. The project is funded by…you and me! One of the backers is CDC Group, a British taxpayer-funded operation that funds economic activity in Africa. The Tanzanian teak farm has come in for quite a bit of local criticism – see http://www.theexpress.com/express%20357/business/….
    I'm not sure how true this is, but it's got to be better than getting teak from Burma.

  2. I agree, the FSC mean that the teak is managed, i think this is the best source it gives stable income to countrys that rarely have such a thing. please lets change the boat industry. no one in other types of wood work activity can use rain forest wood , so boat owners should make a stand and join in this scheme. the consumer has thepower to help make a change through their informed choice.

  3. Having in-depth knowledge indeed, we can say that the African teak mentioned will hardly receive any FSC certification the nearest decades to come.

    There is a thorough survey done spring 1999 by a Swedish team on the extent of the gazetted, but never planted, teak plantations in Southern Sudan and their potentials. The access to high quality teak is very limited indeed – by many various reasons. Also, supporting one side of a war by contributing with money for weapons will automatically make the buyer a target for the other side.

    That different government sponsored aid organisations have small projects and food programs in the communities around a teak plantation doesn't necessarily mean anything at all.

    Plantation teak elsewhere – for example the 3,2 million acres in Indonesia – is always an alternative, though it demands a lot of selecting and lower recovery rates.


    EuroDesign Group

  4. I entirely agree that this is the best or one of the best alternatives. Studies and well managed processes of this can make the teak industry one of the main sources of local revenues for the Government of Southern Sudan that can greatly impact positively on the social welfare of southern Sudanese.

    I am also impressed that Equatoria Teak Company has made it one of their main priorities to undertake a Social Impact Assessment / Survey in their area of focus to ensure that the local communities are not affected in any way; this means to me that they are people's people and company.

    Being one of their proposed persons to undertake their Social Impact Study, I shall do the best to ensure their goal to protect and prosper southern Sudanese is achieved, just as i have done with other companies or partners in the past three [3] years.

    Deng Ayok

    President, millennium research and business associates (mrba)

  5. Tony above is absolutely correct in the limited supply of this high quality teak. However, managing the limited supply of this teak on a sustainable basis in a manner verified by SGS and certified by FSC (see fsc website tony), implies that this quality of teak would be available indefinitely.

    The colour of the Indonesian teak is poorer and the state controlled Peratani lost its FSC certificate some time back for social transgressions.

    A central peace agreement signed in 2005 between the north and south sudan ended the civil war and peace, though fragile, prevails. That peace in many ways is dependant on economic sustainability of Southern Sudan and development minded investors such as Equatoria Teak will contribute significantly if supported for what it is.

    Ignorance or lack of information and especially the offering, publicly, of disinformation can be detrimental and destructive to developmental efforts such as these and all the people involved.

    I would imagine that the company has gone to great lengths in an extremely challenging environment to demonstrate its commitment to sustainable development. The least one could do is request information, accurate information, which the company, if I understand the FSC process correctly, would provide.

    I sincerely hope that upon delving deeper into the value proposition of this company that they would be able to provide you with a sustainable alternative.

    With regards


  6. Having been several times at site and running an FSC-certified company, I have built a rather clear picture/opinion of what it takes.
    Just a short update – FYI:
    The few hectares that by some reason got FSC-certified in Nzara area – is no longer.
    The whole project is, despite millions in funding from UK- and Finnish taxpayers among many, closed down.
    The limited cbms eventually delivered were none of marine quality.

    Thank you,


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