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The following article appeared in Hardwood Matters (NHLA) May 2002:

Rubberwood Marketed as "Malaysian Oak"

Malaysian Oak?
That's right. "Malaysian Oak."
You, of course, know that oak is a temperate hardwood, not indigenous to a Southeast Asian country such as Malaysia. Your customers know that also. But what about the consumer? The end user?
Just what is "Malaysian Oak"?
Rubberwood.
The problem started during the Malaysian International Furniture Fair last month. The Malaysian Ministry of Primary Industries, along with five timber products organizations, distributed a brochure promoting "Malaysian Oak." The target audience is furniture manufacturers and consumers in China, Japan, the countries of the European Union (EU), and the United States. The brochure includes photos of lumber used for furniture and interior design.
The brochure does not include the word "rubberwood" as such. It does use the formal scientific name Hevea basiliensis, but only once, and then in very small print.
The kicker is that the text of the brochure actually claims that "Malaysian Oak" is "comparable to American white oak." Supposedly, the sponsors of the new promotional campaign have said the comparison refers to similarities in color and density.
You may recall previous efforts to market other tropical woods such as "Tasmanian oak" or "chilean cherry." Again, these efforts were directed at gaining markets from temperate hardwoods, but met with limited success. However, the threat of rubberwood is considerable, because it is available in large quantities, and at low prices.
Already, rubberwood has established a market presence in this country in picture frames and lower priced furniture. If the "Malaysian Oak" campaign continues, the potential negative impact on U.S. and Canadian exports could be considerable.
Meetings have been held with U.S. representatives in Malaysia to voice concern about this misleading promotional campaign. Also, U.S. government officials have been advised of the hardwood industry's concerns.
What can you do? Make sure your customers know what "Malaysian Oak" is. If you are an end user, don't be misled.

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