The Teakwood Business in Ecuador Uncovered

Teak wood is at a premium.

India craves it.

And Ecuador has it.

And right now the Ecuador government is offering an incentive for reforestation projects reimbersing 75% of the operating costs of any reforestation project for the first 4 years of growth, which happen to be the most costly years of the harvest.

Teak wood is a hard, luxury wood that grows in dry, tropical climates. Specifically it grows well with 9 months of dry and 3 months of wet just like in many areas of coastal Ecuador.

Often Teak trees in Ecuador that are 8 years old look like the Teak in Costa Rica of 12 years.

You see, Ecuador has the dry climate Teak love, their roots are deep roots that reach the deep undertable water making rainfall unnecessary.

Entry costs: Where best to grow?

For me, the most idela areas for this business is the Emalme to Quevedo coastal plain areas… the average price of raw land in the area ideal for Teak farming is going for $1500 per hectare. It’s best to buy vacant land and grow your own plantation. But land ideal for teak is raising in price.

The hottest opportunity area I see for starting a Teak farm is the Pedro Carbo area where the climate is right, a few savvy farmers are already having success and land is still cheap at $800-$1200 per hectare.

Flat land is needed for optimum Teak farming. Plus, the land should never flood.

The harvest:

Trees are usually planted 3 meters apart to all directions meaning you can fit about 1100 trees per hectare of land. To have the most profitable farm it is preferred to have around 100 hectares.

Projected Operating costs:

For a new 100 hectare Teak farm your biggest expense will be the labor costs. You will need one Agricultural Engineer to manage the farm for the first three years. Agro-engineers in Ecuador in this role as farm manager usually make around $1000/month. You’ll also need about 14 minimum wage workers ($318/month) to water the farm and clear the undergrowth among other general farm maintenance work. That’s $5452 per month or $65,424 a year.

Water is attained through wells. Electricity isn’t a significant cost.

On average all inclusive, the first year you can expect to invest about $2000 per hectare of crop, but thereafter you can cutback on farmhands to the point where the most efficient farms spend about $400-600 per hectare annually.

Harvest time:

Your first harvest can be at the 8 year mark when your wood is sold by the cubic meter. 1 tree = 3 “trozas”, 9 trozas = 1 cubic meter = $230 based on diameter min 44cm $110. At the 8 year mark you can expect to have around on average 800-900 trees remaining per hectare. So from 900 trees which are 8 years old we can expect to make 300 cubic meters of wood for sale at the current prices (which are likely to rise) of $230 per m3 giving us a gross income per hectare of $69,000.

The real money can be made if you can wait to the 15 or 18 year mark when each single Teak tree can command $300. But only expect to have around 350 Teak trees remaining of the original 1100 you planted at the onset. This would give you an income per hectare of $105,000.

The sale:

The sale of Teak is VERY easy. No marketing needed, you produce it and the buyers will come hunt you out! You make the deal, they come, they cut and they usually handle the rest including the export.

The potential profit:

Assuming you bought in the Pedro Carbo area for around $800 per hectare, then proceeded to invest $2000 the first year in each hectare, then $600 for each year thereafter for 7 more years, your total investment per hectare comes to $7000. So in 8 years if you can generate an income of $69000 from that same hectare you will have multiplied your investment about 10 times.

Of course, the set-back for this business model is that you need money to play, big money, and time too.

The kicker:

But what makes this business REALLY profitable, right now, in Ecuador, as mentioned earlier is that the government is willing to pay 75% of your operating costs the first four years you are in operation. To qualify for this “type of grant” whether you are Ecuadorian or foreigner you need to fill out the application documentation and submit it to the MAGAP (Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganaderia, Acuacultura, y Pesca) and solicit an inspection of your farm.

Upon approval of the grant you will then need to begin harvest. At the end of one year the MAGAP will once again inspect your farm and refund 75% of the money you have spent on the upkeep depending on what percentage of the original trees remain alive. And for the next three years you can get the refund following the same process.

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