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Recession: Coconut trees as substitute for timber

By Gbenga Akinfenwa
26 March 2017   |   4:07 am
In the face of rising prices of building materials, builders and prospective house owners are desperately embracing ways of cutting cost, to cushion the effect of the lingering recession.

Sawmill

In the face of rising prices of building materials, builders and prospective house owners are desperately embracing ways of cutting cost, to cushion the effect of the lingering recession.

One of such areas, The Guardian learnt, is the embrace of Coconut trees, as alternative to timber for structural uses, especially for roofing purposes.

As at last September, a piece of 2 by 2 plank (timber) sold at the rate of N250, while 2 by 3-N350; 2 by 4-N500 and phasing board at the rate of N1, 300. But as at last week, 2 by 2 sold at N270; 2 by 3-N450; 2 by 4-N550, while phasing board is sold between N1800 and N2000.

Compared to timber, coconut tree is relatively cheap according to The Guardian’s survey, one of the reasons for the ‘mad rush’ for it. The price is however, subject to the area of purchase.

For instance, in Badagry, a costal area where coconut flourishes, a log of the coconut tree, which can produce as much as 25 pieces of 2 by 4 planks, it is sold as low as N2,500 to N3,000, depending on bargaining power.

In areas where planting of the economic tree is not common, the prices- inclusive of cutting and transportation is still moderate compared to timber, depending on the proximity to the farm. While the 2 by 4 piece of timber is at the rate of N550 now, a 2 by 4 piece of coconut tree could be purchased at the rate of N300 to N350. The same thing for the 2 by 3, which is as low as N200 to N250 for coconut tree, in open markets, compared to N450 for timber.

The Guardian learnt that majority of the coconut tree merchants, go as far as Badagry, Agbara, Atan to get quality trees, majority of which are over 50 years, which can stand the test of time, for as long as 30, 40 years, when used for construction purposes.

President of Coconut Growers Association of Nigeria, Akinlolu Mufutau, who confirmed this to The Guardian, said that the trees are very strong for building, lasting for an average of 100 years.

This development, The Guardian learnt, has also provided jobs for those forced out of employment and those seeking to make ends meet, as they have found another means of making money, with a ready market out there for coconut trunks.

A carpenter, Mr. Kasali Sulaimon, rated coconut trees as one of the best materials for rafter, compared to planks from palm trees, which are also commonly used.

To him, planks from coconut trees are not only affordable and easy to get, he noted that when used for roofing works, they are rugged and long-lasting, for up to 30 years, based on his experience. “I can’t actually give you the present price, the fact is that the price differs from place to place. The price of those who purchase theirs from Oyo would be different from those who bought theirs from Badagry. But despite the place of purchase, it is cheaper than timber and at times more reliable than timber, which most times is not allowed to mature.”

But a timber dealer, Mr. Yemi Omotowoju, who condemned use of coconut trunk said those who use coconut trees, with the aim of cutting cost, would regret the decision. He noted that a lot of them still come back to his shop to buy timber, to replace the coconut tree plank, describing such as waste of time, energy and resources.

Omotowoju noted that the problem with coconut tree plank is that it is not mature before being hewn for use, which makes it very feeble and unqualified for construction purposes. “Coconut trees from Ogun State falls under this category. They are not mature and when used and rain constantly falls on it, it deteriorates and the building becomes threatened.”

To Bamise Oguntola, a bricklayer, majority of the houses he handled in recent times, coconut trees were used for the rafter. This, he also linked with the price, noting that if quality coconut trees are procured, they can substitute timbers, whose price is rising daily.

He noted that aside for rafter making, those building shops now prefer the use of coconut tree planks as replacement for steel poles, adding that some areas are also embracing the use of coconut trunk as electricity poles, since brick poles are not affordable.

“I can tell you that coconut tree is the best alternative to timber now. In the days to come, if prices of timber refuse to come down, more and more people would patronise sellers coconut tree planks.”

This is already generating fear, as farmers and stakeholders are worried over imminent depletion of coconut trees, if urgent steps are not taken to replenish them.

They claim that with the rising usage of its stem for building, coupled with little or no attention to plant new ones, coconut trees might go into extinction, in the next few years.

The Executive Director, Doublem Enterprises Development Centre, Mr. Muhammad Mustafa, warned a few weeks ago that if the cutting of coconut trees for construction works continue, as currently being witnessed, its usefulness as an economic resource will not only run out, there is the possibility that “in the next 50 years coconut tree will go into extinction.

To Mufutau, government needs to discourage people cutting coconut trees for building of houses and cutting down coconut plantations o provide land for housing and other economic activities.

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