AHEC’s 25th South East Asia and Greater China convention hailed “a success”

The speakers of AHEC’s Bangkok convention

On 14 Oct 2022, individuals from the South East Asian timber industry gathered at the Bangkok convention, hosted by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), to listen, discuss and network. The convention was directed by Jiro Jirawat Tangkijngamwong, chairman of the Thai Furniture Association.

According to AHEC, a presentation from Mike Snow, executive director of AHEC sought to challenge some of the misconceptions regarding wood and the environment. His talk highlighted the natural regeneration, annual growth to harvest ratios and the forest management practices that mean the American hardwood resource can be considered truly sustainable.

He went on to share the data and evidence AHEC has in the form of lifecycle assessment data, American Hardwood Environmental Profiles (AHEPs) and the US Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis programme (FIA) to substantiate this assertion.

Tripp Pryor, from AHEC’s head office in Virginia, US, showed that the US remains the world’s largest hardwood lumber exporter, accounting for almost a third of the value of the market. His talk demonstrated that the range of species demanded by the South East Asia region is expanding and underlined the incredible growth of 49% year on year of exports to Thailand.

He went on to highlight some of the limitations of existing global certification systems. He introduced listeners into some of the initial stages of an improved system of certification that AHEC is currently developing as part of the Sustainable Hardwood Coalition with partners including the World Forest ID consortium at Kew Gardens in London, which is building the largest geo-referenced open source forest sample collection to tackle fraud, illegal logging and deforestation.

In the afternoon, young Thai designer Nong Chotipatoomwan discussed her experiences participating in AHEC’s first global design collaboration, Discovered. She talked about the honour of being asked to be one of 20 designers selected globally to exhibit her work, a rocking chair made from American red oak, at the prestigious Design Museum in London and the Triennale in Milan.

The day closed with an introduction to the world of American hardwood lumber grading delivered by Dana Spessert, the chief inspector of the US National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA).

John Chan, regional director of AHEC, commented: “We could not have been happier with the convention. It was wonderful to meet friends old and new face-to-face after so long being forced to only meet on screen. It was a great chance for our members to present their products and capabilities to businesses from Thailand and to start conversations with those who are part of the growing focus on sustainable American hardwood species in our region.

“2022 is a special year as it marks AHEC’s 30th year since it opened its South East Asia and Greater China office in Hong Kong. It also is a homecoming of sorts, as the last time AHEC’s regional convention was held in Bangkok was in 2000. We look forward to welcoming our friends and members for the 26th convention in Chengdu, China in June 2023.”

Many questions were asked during the course of the day to the speakers from the crowd demonstrating an interest in sourcing, availability, pricing and application.

Snow concluded: “It was a day that presented an excellent opportunity for us and our members to reconnect with the South East Asian region in person. It is encouraging that we are seeing more discussion around the sustainability of wood and that our efforts in education and communication are bearing fruit. 

“We thank all for their warm welcome and hospitality and look forward to forging deeper relationships with our partners as a result.”