Thai lumber company executives (including Opas Panitchewakul, Pracha Thawornjira, Jaroonsak Cheewatammanon, Khomwit Boonthamrongkit and Wasant Sonchaiwanich) tour the Mauvila Timber distribution warehouse in Loxly, Ala., with Lane Merchant (left), the company’s general manager.
by Ryan Brewster, International Agricultural Training Specialist, Cochran Fellowship Program – Asia Region
The pine forests of Georgia and the Pacific Northwest are a far cry from the crowded streets of Bangkok, where several shipments of U.S. softwood products are headed thanks to a collaborative effort by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), the Southern Forest Products Association and the Softwood Export Council.
In June 2014, executives from five Thai lumber companies visited the United States under the auspices of FAS’s Cochran Fellowship Program. Thanks to the knowledge they gained and the relationships they forged with the U.S. softwood industry during their visit, several participants subsequently made first-time purchases of U.S. softwood. These initial purchases are a big step for U.S. softwood producers to make headway into the $58 million market in Thailand.
The Thai visitors received an extensive overview of the U.S. wood products industry, focusing on everything from grading and treating of wood, to sawmill operations, to export regulations. They toured nurseries, sawmills, a treatment plant, export warehouses, and even construction sites where they could see U.S. softwood being put to use.
The participants credited the Cochran training with providing them a greater understanding of U.S. softwood, even helping them better differentiate qualities of U.S. softwood from similar products from New Zealand and Australia.
Mr. Khomwit Boonthamrongkit, managing director of SBP Timber Group, said, “The knowledge I gained from the Cochran softwood training program is very useful. I really want to learn more about U.S. softwood species and applications of those species, and because of the training I plan on setting up an agent to facilitate my company’s requirement and inspection of U.S. lumber imports.”
The Cochran Fellowship program is one way FAS helps promote food security and build stronger trade relationships with middle income countries and emerging markets. Since 1984, the program has trained more than 16,300 fellows from more than 120 countries. Click here learn more about the Cochran Fellowship program.