EU imports of tropical veneers rise in 2015
EU imports of tropical veneers increased by 7% to
257,700m3 in the first 11 months of 2015, with growth
driven primarily by rising trade between Gabon and
France. Growth in volume was matched by a 6% increase
in value to €162 million.
EU imports from Gabon increased 13% to 126,300m3
during the first 11 months of 2015. Since okoum谷 log
exports were banned by Gabon in 2010, the southern
European okoum谷 plywood sector 每 now much diminished
每 relies more heavily on imports of veneer.
Demand for okoum谷 plywood has picked up in Europe in
2015 due primarily to recovery in the Netherlands building
industry and slow improvement in the French market.
The French company Rougier which produces okoum谷
veneers and plywood in France and Gabon, booked an
11.8% increase in revenues in its European business
during the first nine months of 2015 and reports an
improved economic climate in Europe.
In addition to Gabon, EU imports of tropical veneer also
increased during the first 11 months of 2015 from
Cameroon (+16% to 27,100 m3), Congo (+2% to 14,500
cu.m), and Ghana (+22% to 8,600 cu.m). However imports
from Ivory Coast declined 3% to 60,800 cu.m (Chart1).
Imports into France and Italy, now the largest EU markets
for tropical veneer, both registered double-digit increases
between January and November 2015, rising 14% to
104,791cu.m and 16% to 60,737m3, respectively. There
were also significant increases in imports by Greece
(+25% to 14,467 cu.m) and Romania (+43% to 14,034
Of the five largest EU markets for tropical veneer, Spain (-
16% to 32,411 cu.m) was the only to report declining
imports in the first 11 months of 2015. However imports
also declined into Germany (-17% to 12893 cu.m) and
Belgium (-47% to 6343 cu.m) during the period.
The German veneer association IFN concluded during its
annual meeting in June 2015 that veneers were
increasingly becoming a niche product in the German
market 每 a startling conclusion in a country which little
more than a decade ago was at the very centre of the
global veneer industry.
EU tropical plywood imports static in 2015
The EU imported 367,000 m3 of tropical plywood in the
first 11 month of 2015, the same as in the previous year.
However there was growth in EU import value of plywood
(+8.7% to €194.1 million) during the period as import
prices were higher in 2015 due to the weak euro. The euro
was on average 16% down on the dollar in 2015 compared
EU imports of plywood in the first 11 months of 2015
were down from both Malaysia and Indonesia, the two
largest suppliers. Imports from Malaysia were 7% less at
101,200m3 during the period.
EU imports from Malaysia were nearly matched by those
from Indonesia which, at 98,900 cu.m, were only 2% less
than the previous year.
China supplied 85,000 cu.m of plywood with a tropical
wood face to the EU in the first 11 months of 2015, 3%
more than the same period the previous year. There was
also a 16% rise in imports from Brazil but, at only 16,100
cu.m, the volume remains low.
Contrasting 2015 plywood market trends between EU
EU markets for tropical hardwood plywood showed
contrasting trends in 2015. The relatively large UK market
was flat and the Netherlands was buoyant, but most other
markets were declining.
The UK imported 142,600 cu.m of tropical plywood in the
first eleven months of last year, 1% more than the previous
year. The latest data suggests a small surge in UK imports
in the last quarter of 2015. After the first three quarters,
UK imports of tropical plywood were 4% lower than the
Overall market conditions in the UK were not as buoyant
in 2015 as they were in 2014. The UK Timber Trade
Federation reports an overall reduction in wood product
imports by 3.1% for the period from January to November
2015, blaming a slow-down in UK construction as a main
factor behind this trend.
In relation to hardwood plywood, including both
temperate and tropical, the TTF records a 10.8% increase
in imports during the period.
This is mainly due to a rise in imports from China. UK
imports from Indonesia also increased slightly, from a
small base, but Malaysia suffered a significant loss of
share in the UK plywood market last year.
The frequently mentioned recovery in the Dutch economy
and building sector is reflected in a 23% jump in imports
of tropical plywood to 59,548 cu.m in the first 11 months
of 2016. As in the UK, there was an uptick in plywood
imports into the Netherlands in the last quarter of 2015.
Last year, the Netherlands overtook Belgium to become
the second largest EU importer of tropical plywood.
Other EU markets for tropical plywood were declining last
year. Imports fell into Belgium (-11% to 59,466 cu.m),
France (-1% to 42,034 cu.m), Germany (-17% to 21,859
cu.m) and Italy (-7% to 20,396 cu.m).
German importers interviewed at the timber trade
federation GD Holz＊s Branchentag trade show in
November reported weakness in tropical plywood sales
last year. Raw plywood from Indonesia and Malaysia, in
particular, was replaced with more competitively priced
hardwood plywood from Russia and Eastern Europe.
The only grade from South-East Asia mentioned as selling
well in Germany was film-faced 4 mm panels from
French imports drive rise in EU tropical wood flooring
There was significant growth in EU import value of
tropical wood flooring (+18.7% to €89.7 million) in the
first eleven months of 2015. However, at 3.94 million
sq.m, EU imports of tropical flooring were only 2% more
than the year before.
Imports of wood flooring from tropical countries are also
small in relation to both domestic production (around 63
million sq.m in 2014) and imports from China (18.7
million sq.m in 2014).
There was a rise in imports from both Indonesia and
Malaysia, the two largest tropical suppliers of wood
flooring to the EU. Imports increased from Indonesia by
3% to 1.35 million sq.m and by 2% from Malaysia to 1.22
million sq.m in the first 11 months of 2015.
Between October to November EU imports from
Indonesia were slowing but picking up pace from
EU imports of flooring from Viet Nam also gained ground
in the first eleven months of last year, rising 23% to
329,800 sq.m. Imports from Brazil also increased by 5%
These gains offset a fall in imports from several smaller
tropical suppliers of flooring to the EU including Thailand
(-9%), Peru (-31%) and Hong Kong (-32%) (Chart 3).
The rise in EU tropical wood flooring imports in 2015 is
primarily due to France, by far the largest market for this
commodity accounting for around one quarter of all EU
imports. Imports into France increased 28% to
850,200sq.m in the first 11 months of 2015.
During the same period, there was a rise in tropical wood
flooring imports by the UK (+1% to 498,098 sq.m), Italy
(+6% to 408,855 sq.m) and the Netherlands (+39% to
330,440 sq.m). However imports declined sharply into
Belgium (-30% to 540,169 sq.m) and Germany (-13% to
Imports of flooring from China are excluded from Chart 2
only because it is not possible to differentiate tropical from
temperate wood in the flooring statistics.
However China is by far the largest external supplier of
flooring products to the EU, much consisting of assembled
multi-layers panels, and volumes over-shadow imports
from tropical countries. An unknown proportion will
contain tropical wood.
EU imports of wood flooring from China (including all
products faced with real wood but excluding laminated
flooring) were 16.0 million sq.m from January to
November 2015, down 8% from 17.4 million sq.m in the
same period of 2014. This follows a 5% gain in EU
imports of Chinese flooring to 18.7 million sq.m for the
whole of 2014.
In the first 11 months of 2015, EU imports of Chinese
flooring were stable into the UK at 4.8 million sq.m and
increased 10% to 1.2 million sq.m into Sweden.
However Chinese wood flooring imports were down 4%
into Belgium at 2.7 million sq.m, down 21% into Italy at
1.9 million sq.m, down 6% into Netherlands at 1.8 million
sq.m, and down 12% into Germany at 1.6 million sq.m
The decline in EU imports of Chinese flooring in 2015
was therefore concentrated in euro-zone countries and is
most likely due to the weakness of the euro which boosted
the competitiveness of domestic producers.