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Why Narra Wood is So Expensive

Narra wood, renowned for its stunning beauty and remarkable durability, is highly sought after in woodworking and furniture making. This exquisite wood, native to the Philippines, is known for its rich, reddish-brown color and fine grain, making it a favorite among artisans and craftsmen. But why is Narra wood so expensive? To understand the factors driving its price, we need to explore the world of narra trees, their uses, conservation efforts, and the legal framework surrounding their protection.

What is Narra Tree

The narra tree, scientifically known as Pterocarpus indicus, is a majestic hardwood species endemic to Southeast Asia and the Pacific region. In the Philippines, it is often called the “Philippine mahogany” due to its remarkable similarity to mahogany in terms of its color, grain, and workability. The narra tree can grow quite tall, with some specimens reaching up to 40 meters. Its leaves are pinnate, and its flowers are small and inconspicuous, but what makes Narra truly remarkable is its heartwood.

Bitaog (Calophyllum inophyllum)
Bitaog (Calophyllum inophyllum)

The heartwood of Narra is what makes it so valuable. It possesses a beautiful, rich, reddish-brown hue that darkens over time, taking on a deep, luxurious patina. The wood has a fine and even grain, making it a preferred choice for intricate carving and fine furniture making.

Philippine Laws on Cutting Down Narra Trees

Narra trees have been protected under Philippine law for several decades. The Philippine government has recognized the importance of preserving these trees due to their cultural and ecological significance. In the Philippines, cutting down narra trees without proper permits and compliance with regulations is illegal.

In 1975, Presidential Decree No. 705, also known as the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, was enacted. This law provides stringent regulations regarding the cutting, transporting, and selling narra wood and other timber species. The penalty for illegal logging can include hefty fines and even imprisonment. The government has been actively enforcing these laws to safeguard narra trees.

Narra Wood Uses and Applications

The rarity and quality of narra wood make it highly desirable in various industries. Its exquisite appearance and durability make it a prime choice for crafting fine furniture, cabinetry, and decorative woodwork. Its fine grain allows for intricate carving and detailing, making it a favorite among artisans.

Narra wood’s robustness and resistance to termites and decay make it suitable for construction and architectural applications. It creates flooring, staircases, window frames, and door panels. The wood’s ability to maintain its beauty even after decades of use adds to its appeal.

Moreover, narra is also used for musical instruments, including pianos and violins. The wood’s acoustic qualities and visual appeal make it an excellent choice for sound resonance and tonal quality.

Why Narra Wood is So Expensive

Several factors contribute to the high cost of narra wood.

  1. The first and most significant factor is its limited supply. As mentioned, narra trees are protected under Philippine law, and their felling is heavily regulated. The restricted supply naturally leads to higher prices as demand remains steady, particularly in the luxury furniture and fine woodworking industries.
  2. The second factor is the difficulty of working with narra wood. While it is prized for its fine grain and beauty, narra is a dense and hardwood. This hardness makes cutting, carving, and shaping challenging, requiring specialized tools and expertise. Craftsmen and artisans who work with narra wood often invest significant time and resources into mastering its unique properties, which further increases the cost of finished products.
  3. The third factor contributing to narra wood’s high cost is its increasing conservation status. The effort required to legally and sustainably harvest narra wood is significant as a protected species. Compliance with Philippine regulations necessitates thorough documentation, permitting, and oversight, all of which add to the cost of obtaining narra wood.

Conservation Status and Efforts of Narra Tree

Narra trees are not only valued for their wood but also for their ecological importance. They play a crucial role in maintaining biodiversity and supporting local ecosystems. These trees provide habitat and food for various wildlife species, making their conservation critical.

Efforts to conserve narra trees are multifaceted. These include the strict regulation of logging, reforestation programs, and community awareness initiatives. The Philippine government has designated protected areas and natural parks where narra trees can thrive undisturbed. Sustainable logging practices have also been promoted to ensure that narra wood remains available for future generations.

Furthermore, locally and internationally, the public has a role to play in narra tree conservation. Supporting organizations and initiatives that promote sustainable forestry practices and raising awareness about the significance of preserving these remarkable trees can contribute to their survival.

The Bottom Line

Narra wood’s allure is undeniable, from its exquisite color and fine grain to its exceptional durability. However, its high cost is driven by a combination of factors, including limited supply due to legal protection, the wood’s inherent difficulty in working with, and the increasing focus on conservation efforts. The value of narra wood extends beyond its aesthetic and practical uses; it represents a commitment to preserving a species vital to the Philippines’ cultural heritage and ecological balance.

Consumers must be conscious of the sources of narra wood products and choose those that adhere to sustainable and legal harvesting practices. By doing so, we can support the preservation of narra trees and ensure that future generations will have the opportunity to marvel at the beauty of this remarkable wood. In doing so, we not only celebrate Narra’s exceptional qualities but also contribute to the long-term well-being of our planet.

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