It’s interesting trying to keep up with how guitar companies and the tonewood market are dealing with the new CITES restrictions on rosewood.
It’s pretty clear that most guitar companies have been caught sleeping on the job when it comes to tonewood supply.
Here’s a recent article that puts a spotlight on the difficult times ahead for the industry.
It’s a long read but worth the effort. Here are some of the more relevant sections from a tonewood growers viewpoint:
The specific timing and impact of the latest restrictions on commercial rosewood usage is indeed a headache for the guitar industry, but it comes amid a much longer contextual setting of ecological concern and environmental politics. Which is to say that you don’t have to be Nostradamus to work out what’s coming next. We’re discussing rosewood here, but ebony and mahogany are glowing bright on the radar for more stringent protection.
Despite the best efforts of Martin, Taylor and Gibson in pushing the likes of Richlite and HPL for more than two decades now, many guitar enthusiasts – particularly fans of premium instruments – remain uninterested in anything but traditional timbers.
Sustainable wood species such as maple, sycamore, cherry and so on may provide some form of halfway house, but it still leaves the big guitar brands labouring with a stark contradiction. By their own admission, they’ve been telling us for decades that the ‘best’ guitars use the ‘best’ rosewood, mahogany and ebony. Their survival as businesses, however, requires much more widespread use of more sustainable materials.
“By their own admission…” indeed. And it still continues. Efforts by most guitar companies to “shift the market” have been pretty mild to say the least.
And we hear that most mahoganies and ebony are next on the list.
New Zealand blackwood growers are looking at a significant opportunity here.
With their plantation resource now maturing just as the global tonewood supply is coming under pressure, it’s the perfect time to be a blackwood grower.
New Zealand blackwood growers need to start making connections into the tonewood market, promoting New Zealand plantation-grown blackwood as a profitable, sustainable quality tonewood.
The opportunity is right now!
As for Tasmania, well we seem to have missed the boat.
No guitar company is coming to Tasmania to buy blackwood or other tonewoods plundered from our conservation reserves at taxpayers expense.
The next 5-10 years will see the global tonewood market completely transformed. Who will be the beneficiaries of this change?
One of the major challenges is that the tonewood market does not know how to engage with the farming community to support and encourage them to grow tonewoods. Getting farmers to make a 30+ year investment planting trees takes a lot of support and encouragement.