Knock on Wood

timber is quickly being replaced by foreign timber. As Abdul Mohamin reports, carpenters say there’s more than one reason why they prefer it.

Lately, Kashmiri carpenters have become big fans of Mirinda. No, not the Mirinda that would quench their thirst, but the foreign timber variety which they call Mirinda. This timber is both knot and rot free, and has therefore become a preferred choice of timber for most carpenters.

The formal name for this high-demand timber is Merenti. It is one of the major varieties of timber being imported to Kashmir, besides Spruce, Fir and Cider. These timber varieties arrive in Kashmir from foreign forests and are then used exhaustively for housing and furniture needs.

Other factors that have contributed to the success of these varieties is that this timber is 50 percent cheaper than the locally available timber, besides being hassle-free for transportation. Additionally, carpenters say that this timber requires the least amount of documentation.

Mohammad Ramzan Dar, a timber trader, says that that his trade has been sustained only after these imports where allowed. “More than 80 percentof our sales today are driven by foreign timber varieties as customers find this material readily available in the markets,” he says.

GhulamNabi, one of the importers of foreign timber in Parimpora, says that Kashmir has become the major importer of timber in all of India. “Our usage of timber is more in our housing needs and it is the dealers from our state who place maximum orders for the imports,” he says.

Nabi says that in states other than Kashmir, timber use in housing is reducing, as there are other alternatives available to replace timber.  “But in our region, timber still remains the preferred building material,” Nabi adds.

Importers say majority of the timber consignments consumed within India are received at the Kandla Port in Gujrat, and orders are placed to agents stationed there.  These agents then forward the timber mostly in sawn form with an average 3500 Cubic feet(cft) of timber reaching Kashmir on a daily basis. Ready-to-use sawn timber and wood paneling is also imported directly from foreign countries to be sold in the local Kashmiri market.

Haji Bashir Ahmad, one of the traders, says, “Locally available timber is the best in quality as compared to outside varieties, but there is a huge gap between supply and demand giving an edge to foreign timber.”

 The mandate of providing timber to the people lies with the State Forest Corporation, (SFC) that in turn is authorized by the State Forest Department to utilize the reserves that have been damaged or diseased to meet the timber needs in Kashmir. This comes after a ban on green felling was imposed by the central government.

However, traders say annual extraction is always on the decline, and extracted material is mostly of a low quality because of the years of decay it suffers till its auction is carried. The SFC always increases the price, as the pricing mechanism is dependent on a reserve rate. This authorizes them to fix a rate where the selling price of the previous auction is set as the baseline price.

On the contrary,the prices of imported timber are governed by a competitive market at the timber market in Gujrat, with additions being on account of freight and tax, plus the profit of the dealer fixing the end price for the customer.

Traders say it is the huge gap in supply and demand that is creating a thriving market for imported timber in urban areas of the valley and in rural Kashmir—a region that was mainly fed by the Forest Department for meeting its timber needs.

GhulamNabisays, “We are sending the supplies to many dealers in towns, which is why the imports are increasing.”
The carpenters, too, have become fond of such timber as the quality stays intact in imported timber, and its use is recommended for most housing and furniture needs. Additionally, imported paneling is gaining a huge market here.
Mohammad Maqbool, a carpenter, says,“It’s not just an entire joinery being made from this timber, but given the cold climate here, people are opting for paneling of their rooms with the imported wood that is precision made, with a high finish, that lowers its installation cost.”

Dealers say that timber mostly comes from Canada, Malaysia, Russia, Indonesia and Germany, where forests are mostly managed at a private level—like the poplar plantations in Kashmir.


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