following article appeared in Hardwood Matters (NHLA) May 2002:
Marketed as "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"?
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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