Imported timber complements Australian-grown timber range
BRITTON TIMBERS International, the international arm of Britton Timbers Australia which has a mill in northwest Tasmania and distribution centres in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, is one of Australia’s largest importers of specialty timbers.
Director Dominic McNeil says Britton stocks more than 50 species from North and South America, Europe, Africa, the AsiaPacific region and Australia, He says demand is strong and growing for sustainably harvested timber from certified forest. “We import timber to complement our range of Australian timbers and our PEFC certified Tasmanian species such as Tasmanian Oak, Myrtle and Blackwood.
“Some imported timbers offer a grain structure and colour palette that is not available locally. Australian timbers are generally quarter-sawn and imported timbers are not, so that’s an obvious point of difference.
“American hardwoods such as American White Oak are sought-after by architects, specifiers and developers simply as an alternative.
“People looking for the French Oak look, for example, can obtain that from American White Oak at a very reasonable price,” he says.
Dominic says sales of Asian timbers are also on the rise.
“Importing from Asia is a core part of our business and given its proximity, prices are very competitive. In some instances, Asian timbers can also be available in very long lengths and that suits a variety of applications. Australian timbers are generally not available in super-long lengths.’
On the question of ensuring the provenance and certification of its imports Dominic says Britton Timbers takes a cautious approach.
“The importance of sustainability and proper harvesting practices cannot be overstated. It is vital in today’s market to be able to reassure customers that they are buying timber harvested under strictly enforced guidelines and with international certification.
“That’s why we personally visit the areas from which our imports originate. If you’re interested in longevity of supply and on-going customer satisfaction, you cannot be too careful. You must do your due diligence.”
As most importers would know, the rules surrounding timber importation have been strengthened as of November 30 last year, and the onus put squarely on the importer to make sure of the legality of the imported timber, so Britton’s approach may well be followed by other importers. "The new laws are a significant step in the right direction. Establishing the bona fides of timber can only be a good thing. Accreditation systems such as PEFC and FSC are doing their best to ensure the sustainability of timber production around the world and at the importation end we must also take responsibility.”
Dominic says satisfying demand for imported specialty timbers means making a significant investment.
“We carry large stocks to ensure we can meet demand for our timbers with a minimum of delay and that makes using imported timbers a viable and attractive option for our customers.”
Dominic says Britton Timbers’ strong links to the American Hardwood Export Council have also been advantageous.
"We were the first non US-based company to be invited to join the AHEC ranks. This was a reflection of the work we'd done to bring the advantages of American timbers to the Australian market. We’ve collaborated closely with AHEC at trade shows and the like to market American hardwoods. The relationship has been valuable and has helped us provide a professional level of service and advice to customers.”
And what of the future?
Dominic believes it’s very bright. “You only have to look at some of the major European building and development projects to see that the strength, attractiveness and environmental advantages of wood are much sought-after. There has been a turnaround in thinking and wood - both in its natural state and as component of engineered products - has made a huge comeback. And so it should. Wood is the future.”
AHEC BrittonTimbers presentation.
American Black Walnut Christian Cole Furniture (quarter curve).
American White Ash.
American Black Walnut kitchen of the year JAG.