Woodworkers lament shortage of timber, dwindling market share

Selassie Tetevie

The shortage of quality timber and shrinking of the market size for locally made furniture, largely occasioned by import of ‘home-used’ ones, is killing the local woodwork industry.

In a letter reacting to the B&FT’s recent exposé on how imported furniture is killing the local carpentry industry, Selassie Tetevie – a carpenter with 25 years of experience – outlined a number of challenges he and his colleagues face.

He said: “The challenges, in my humble view, are many; the least being scarcity of timber and related materials for production. This has been the case for the past ten years or more.

“Again, the domestic market’s small size doesn’t make industrial production currently feasible,” he said.

Selassie’s view on the shortage of timber is supported by the Domestic Lumber Trade Association (DOLTA), which has constantly expressed worry over overexploitation of the country’s forests as about 90 percent of wood produced domestically is substandard.

Another challenge in the industry, Mr. Tetevie said, is the skills-gap that exists in the local industry and which results in poor finishing.

Providing some solutions, Mr. Tetevie said there is need for the woodwork and timber merchants’ associations to come up with a policy or plan that will ensure quality timber is available on the market for carpenters.

Again, he said government should set up institutions that will train woodworkers and help them hone their skills so they can produce modern designs which can better compete with the imported furniture.

Regulation

He also called for regulation to protect the local industry, so that certain furniture the local market has competitive advantage in will not be allowed into the country.

Imported furniture is so popular among Ghanaians that it is pushing some of the local carpenters out of business.

In every nook and cranny of Accra, street-side shops dealing in imported furniture – some of which come with plastic wrapping – are seen doing brisk business, with La Paz along the Mallam-Kasoa highway being a major hub.

The prices of these mostly-used (a few appear unused) furniture – mostly imported from the United States, Germany, Italy and the UK – range from GH₵1,500 to as high as GH₵22,000, depending on the quality and how new they look.

An Ashaley Botwe-based dealer sells a set of three-in-one and two singles furniture made of leather for GH₵2,200; and another set of the same kind made of fabric for GH₵1,800.

A shop at La Paz sells a used three-in-one for GH₵1,500; and a set which is made up of two singles, one double seater, and a three-in-one seater for GH₵4,000. Leather furniture that appears unused sells for between GH₵9,000 to GH₵25,000 in this shop.

On the other hand, the local carpenters are selling new sets of furniture within the price range of GH₵2,500 to GH₵6,000, depending on the quality of material preferred by the client.

According to a new report by Allied Market Research, the global luxury furniture market is expected to reach US$27billion by 2020, registering a CAGR of 4.1 percent during 2015-2020.

Statista, another research organisation, estimates that furniture and home furnishings stores generated about US$106billion worth of sales in 2015.

And according to eMarketer, online sales of furniture will reach US$32billion by 2018 – growing at an annual rate of 11 percent and continuing to eat into brick-and-mortar sales.