Mohamed Mawlana, general manager for Al Nibras in Sharjah, stands in front of part of his company’s inventory of American Black Walnut.
Al Nibras Provides Middle Eastern Opportunity For American Hardwoods By Michael Buckley
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates–Mohamed Mawlana is a man with a mission in the Middle East. He sells sawn lumber and panels quite simply, no frills – just the right material at the right price in stock and in bulk.
By 2008, Al Nibras became one of the largest hardwood stockists in the Gulf. By the end of that year the company was holding 17,000 m3 in stock, with more under contract and on the water in transit and then came the last crash in the market. Today Al Nibras’ stock is made up entirely of hardwoods with fully one-fourth from the USA, plus Europe. North American Walnut, Hard Maple, Red Oak and Black Cherry are part of Al Nibras’ inventory. Otherwise, its stock is comprised 40% from Africa and about 35% from Malaysia.
A truck being loaded in the Al Nibras delivery fleet.
“Our vision now is to be a central hardwood distributor for the Middle East,” said Mawlana. Outside the UAE Al Nibras has established selling in Syria, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Iraq, Jordon, Iran and Pakistan. As part of this expansion Al Nibras has also started to import MDF and HDF panels from Malaysia, Thailand, Brazil and North America (Canada).
“This fits neatly with our desire to supply basic raw materials to manufacturers and traders within the region,” he added.
A business administration graduate from the American University in Dubai, he appeared firmly in the frame in Dubai at the Dubai Woodshow last April and plans to be there again this year. He has since exhibited in wood shows in Cairo and Abu Dhabi, but his company, Al Nibras is not new.
Al Nibras was established as a family business over 20 years ago dealing in decorative materials. In 1999 it turned to importing softwoods and plywood for the construction industry and for its own prefabricated housing plant. In the Asian financial crisis, demand fell and Al Nibras subsequently turned its attention to trading in an area where there were few wood importers. The family later took the view that its finances were not intended for speculation in wood.
Al Nibras offers 17-inch wide American Walnut.
From the construction sector it then turned to dealing in internal parquet flooring, ironmongery and MDF with some small volumes of hardwood.
“In those days,” he said, “there were many problems with hardwoods; small quantities; hard to source; and most importantly problems with moisture content and limited kiln availability locally. So the established practice of buying, shipping dry, or even air dried, hardwood lumber often led to quality claims.”
In 2003 Mawlana saw an opportunity to grow the business by moving into hardwoods and concentrated on that expansion. During 2003/04 dry kilns with a capacity of 300 m3 were installed, at a cost of Dirham5.5 million (US$1.5 million). In those days Mawlana estimates that the hardwood market was almost entirely Meranti, Mahogany and Beech and almost nothing from the USA.
“Dubai was a Meranti market,” he said. “As the development of great projects, such as the Palm Island and the growth of shoreline villas, created a huge market for hardwoods, self marketing carried us through, whereby we were just order takers. Big companies came to us and demanded new species which we imported from Africa and America.”
Mawlana in front of open storage of Teak.
Romania had become a major supplier but developers were looking for exterior hardwoods and “rich, decorative” species. Hard Maple, Red Oak and Black Cherry started to arrive in volume from U.S. exporters, and these big projects were also demanding lumber kilndried, which Al Nibras could supply.
Al Nibras has certainly positioned itself as a serious hardwood distributor and, as the use of American hardwoods increase throughout the Middle East, the company is likely to become of more and more interest to users. Late in 2011 the company exhibited at the small but focused Wood Show in Abu Dhabi where new contacts were made and Al Nibras product range and profile was further enhanced. So at the Dubai Wood Show in April 2012 companies wanting to buy or sell hardwoods in the Middle East might want to meet Mohamed Mawlana.
To contact Al Nibras, phone 971-6-5424484.
Pictured is 2-inch American Red Oak in stock at Al Nibras, whose customers are not only from the United Arab Emirates, but also Syria, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Iran and Pakistan.
This is Al Nibras’ display of American Black Walnut at the recent Dubai Wood Show.