Grown in the vast tropical rain forests of Central America, India, and Indonesia, teak (tectona grandis) is a popular hardwood used for indoor and outdoor furniture, flooring, decking and paneling. Given its size and weight, you will need to source, purchase and ship the teak to a U.S. entry port. The process requires plenty of preparation and paperwork because you must apply for an import permit and complete other documentation for different government agencies. Depending on its country of origin, you may also have to pay import duty to U.S. Customs before your teak shipment is released.
Determine which country you wish to source the teak and choose a reputable firm to act on your behalf. Ensure you choose a reliable supplier and third-party agent by contacting a trade-oriented government agency, local trade organization or an importer, and seek impartial advice. The trade office of the local U.S. Embassy could also provide valuable, independent advice, and highlight any potential problems or pitfalls, such as export requirements or language issues.
Apply for a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to import timber or timber products. Download, print and complete the one-page PPQ Form 585 from APHIS. Forward the completed form to the Permit Services division of APHIS in Riverdale, Maryland, and wait to hear if the application has been successful.
Organize phytosanitary procedures for the wood or wood products before shipping so they adhere to strict U.S. import regulations. APHIS requires all teak and teak products to be treated with chemicals or heat to eliminate the risk of importing nonnative pests and diseases. The permit will state which procedure is required. Wood can be heat treated in a kiln dryer or microwave energy dryer. Chemical treatment sees a surface pesticide, preservative or methyl bromide fumigation applied to the teak.
Check the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) to see if import duties will be applied to the shipment. As of March 2011, teak had HTSUS code number 31 and did not attract any import duty.
Confirm shipping arrangements with your overseas supplier and/or handling agent to ensure there is no misunderstanding over the quantity of teak being imported, delivery date and port of entry -- preferably one close to where the wood will be used or sold so transportation costs are reduced.