Monthly Archives: March 2010

Wood Innovation Research Group Reports in first Semester of Research Project funded by USDA-FSMIP

By Scott Lyon, Graduate Student. March 25, 2010.

The potential for US forest products in international markets such as Central America has not been historically addressed. With a combined population of more than 40 million residents, Central America offers many business opportunities for US hardwood and softwood lumber producers. Our effort will focus on the most important economies in Central America: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. We believe that the increased rates of housing, tourism infrastructure, and public infrastructure will need a massive supply of hardwood and softwood lumber that the region itself will not be able to fulfill in the near future. Also, we have found that local protectionism policies in favor of the national forests of these countries would benefit the imports of wood products, especially from the United States. The concern of harvesting tropical forests also provides an opportunity to increase sales of US temperate species. Our goal is to create an export handbook of Central America for Virginia wood products industries.

During the first six months of the project, the research team conducted a literature review and face-to-face interviews with governmental officials in Panama and Costa Rica to determine the current demand of local production, the potential for future production, and any trade barriers for new importers.

Visit to Panamerican Woods, a tropical hardwood flooring manufacturing Site in Costa Rica

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Virginia Tech students visit vertical-integrated wood products facility in Costa Rica

As a part of the study abroad course Global Issues in Sustainability taught jointly by professors Henry Quesada and Tom Hammett, a group of 10 Virginia Tech students visited on March 10, 2010 the company Maderas Cultivadas de Costa Rica located in the north region of the small Central American country.  The company has been operating since earlies 1980 when started planting gmelina arborea, a tropical hardwood species. In the beginning the company only focused on planting trees on their own land or also renting land from other farmers.

A few years later the company realized that the installed production capacity of the local sawmills was not a good fit for their long term strategy so the firm invested in developing their own value-added processes. Today the company owns more than 10,000 ha of plantations in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The firm produces plywood, lumber, pallets, and engineering lumber and employs more than 400 people through the whole supply chain.

Virginia Tech students walking towards the cloning tree process at Maderas Cultivadas de Costa Rica

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