EU timber imports rise to highest level since financial
The total value of EU imports of wood products was Euro
17.48 billion in 2016, 1.3% more than in 2015. This
followed an increase of 12% to Euro 17.25 billion in
2015. In 2016 EU import value was at the highest level
since 2008 just before the global financial crises (Chart 1).
The value of the euro plunged 20% against the U.S. dollar
between 2014 and 2015, resulting in a sharp increase in
euro import prices at that time, particularly for goods from
North America and Asia. This was a major factor boosting
the value of EU imports in 2015.
However, the value of the euro remained relatively stable
against the U.S. dollar between 2015 and 2016 and had
much less impact on the import value trend last year.
2016 wooden furniture imports par gains of last year
Considering individual products (Chart 2), the value of EU
imports of wood furniture fell by 0.3% to Euro 5.78 billion
in 2016 after a sharp increase in 2015.
This was mainly due to a decline in EU imports from
China. EU imports of wood furniture from non-EU
countries in Europe were rising last year. This forms part
of general trend of increasing EU dependence on wood
furniture manufactured in central and Eastern Europe.
Rising trend in sawnwood and plywood imports
The value of EU imports of sawnwood increased 4.3% to
Euro 3.2 billion last year, continuing the rising trend
which began in 2013. There was a particularly significant
increase in the value of EU sawnwood imports from
Africa in 2016 which offset a sharp decline in imports
from South East Asia.
EU imports of sawn wood from Russia and other CIS
countries also continued to rise last year, helped along by
the relative weakness of currencies in the region.
EU imports of panels (mainly plywood) increased 3.1% to
Euro 2.52 billion in 2016 following an 11% in 2015. A
significant increase in plywood imports from Russia offset
declining imports from China and Latin America. There
were also gains in EU plywood imports from Africa in
The long-term rise in EU imports of energy wood
continued in 2016 to reach an all-time high of Euro 1.93
billion, up 9% compared to the previous year and nearly
four times the value of a decade ago. EU imports of
energy wood (now dominated by pellets) increased sharply
from the U.S. and CIS region last year.
Malaysia and Indonesia score with joinery exports
Following a 22% increase in 2015, EU imports of other
joinery products (mainly doors and LVL for window
frames) increased a further 4% to Euro 690 million in
Significant gains were made by Indonesia, Malaysia,
Russia and Ukraine in supply of joinery products to the
EU last year, while imports from China lost ground
(although China is still the single largest external
EU imports of wood flooring fell back 9% to Euro 540
million in 2016, mainly due to a 11% decline in imports
from China to Euro 341 million. EU imports of ¡°other
processed products¡± (mainly classified under HS 442190
and not separately identified) remained stable at Euro 2.02
billion after a 17% gain in 2015. 56% of EU imports of
¡°other processed products¡± derive from China.
Tropical timber supplier¡¯s share of EU market
maintained in 2016
The value of EU imports of wood products from tropical
countries declined 0.8% to Euro 3.79 billion in 2016,
reversing the rising trend of 2014 (+6.1%) and 2015
The share of tropical countries in the total value of EU
wood product imports has remained stable at around 22%
in the last 3 years.
The declining share of tropical countries in total EU
imports experienced in the decade prior to 2014 has halted
for now (Chart 3).
China¡¯s share in total EU imports of wood products fell
from 32.4% in 2015 to 30.5% last year, while the share of
Russia and other CIS countries increased from 17.2% to
19.3%. In 2016, there was a slight increase in share of EU
imports from non-EU European countries (from 10.5% to
10.8%) and North America (from 11.4% to 11.5%).
The slight decline in the total value of EU wood product
imports from the tropics in 2016 hides variations between
products groups (Chart 4).
Last year, there was a decline in EU imports from tropical
countries of wood furniture (-2.2% to Euro 1.52 billion),
sawn wood and decking (-1.9% to Euro 1.01 billion),
energy wood (-2.9% to Euro 138.9 million), flooring (-
20.3% to Euro 76.4 million), and logs (-4.2% to Euro 73.8
However, these declines were partly offset by rising EU
imports from tropical countries of plywood and veneer
(+9.5% to Euro 44.4 million) and other joinery (+3.2% to
Euro 263 million - mainly LVL and doors).
EU wood products exports just short of record level
In 2016, the EU exported wood products with a total value
of Euro 20.40 billion, just short of the previous year¡¯s
record level of Euro 20.51 billion (Chart 5). The EU¡¯s
wood product trade surplus with the rest of the world fell
from Euro 3.26 billion in 2015 to Euro 2.92 billion in
This was mainly due to a 1.7% decline in EU exports of
wood furniture to Euro 8.60 billion in 2016, and an 8.6%
decline in exports of energy wood, to Euro 176 million.
Italian wood machinery sales give cause for optimism
The wood market in Italy has been depressed now for
several years. However newly released data on wood
machinery sales suggests there was a significant upturn in
capital investment in the industry last year.
Data from Acimall, the Italian association of
woodworking machinery manufacturers, show that total
sales by members to domestic industry were Euro 592
million in 2016, 31.6% more than the previous year.
Export sales of woodworking machinery also increased in
2016, but at a slower rate of 5.1% to Euro 1486 million.
Much of the recent growth in export sales has been
concentrated in North America.
Acimall suggest that increase in sales last year was driven
both by public incentives and measures to support
industrial activity and by rising wood product
Taken together, the data shows that Italian machinery
manufacturers¡¯ total sales increased by 11.5% to Euro
2078 million in 2016. This is close to the industry¡¯s record
production level of Euro 2159 million in 2007.
New EU ecolabel criteria for wood flooring
On 25 January 2017, the EU published Decision (EU)
2017/176 in the official EU Journal establishing EU
Ecolabel criteria for wood, cork and bamboo based floor
coverings. The new criteria require that any virgin wood,
cork, bamboo and rattan in the finished products originate
from certified sustainably managed forests.
In addition, the Ecolabel criteria include a set of measures
to ensure low energy consumption for manufacturing,
drastically limit the VOC (Volatile Organic Compound)
content, and ban use of harmful chemicals for flame
retardant, binding and finishing applications.
The EU Ecolabel is a voluntary scheme, which means that
producers, importers and retailers can choose to apply for
the label for their products.
While not mandatory for the specified product, the green
procurement policies of many EU authorities now
recognize and may give preference to products bearing the
ATIBT publish new guide to using African timbers in
The Association Technique Internationale des Bois
Tropicaux (ATIBT - International Tropical Timber
Technical Association) has just released Volume 1 of their
"User Guide for Eco-certified African Timber in Europe".
The aim is to help transform attitudes to tropical timber in
Europe, enhancing awareness that it offers an efficient,
technically superior and responsible material for use in a
wide range of applications.
The ATIBT Guide shows how certified African species
can supplement and complement temperate timber species,
thereby helping to expand the total market for wood
products in Europe.
To achieve these goals the guide promotes both the natural
properties of tropical timber and the major effort to
independently certify and verify the legality of forests and
wood products in tropical Africa.
The ATIBT Guide was prepared by Patrick Martin and
Michel Vernay, both qualified timber engineers and
recognised experts in the use of tropical timber in
construction. Financial support was provided by PPECF
(Programme de Promotion de l'Exploitation Certifi¨¦e des
For¨ºts - Programme for the Promotion of Certified Forest
Operations) and the AFD (Agence Française de
D¨¦veloppement - French Development Agency).
Volume 1 of the Guide is intended for European users of
African timber, as well as all suppliers, distributors,
designers, public buyers and instructors whose activities
are linked to the timber sector. Volume 2, yet to be
published, will target African consumers.
The Guide is divided into two sections. The first section
provides technical information on the various aspects of
tropical timber. It explains in layman's terms the principles
of sustainable tropical forestry and its implications for
land-use change, carbon sequestration and other
environmental impacts, and describes the African
production region, progress to achieve certification and its
implications and benefits.
The first section also explains the various technical
properties of tropical timbers (mechanical resistance,
hardness, resilience, aesthetics, durability), provides
information on drying and other treatments and
appropriate applications, and thereby highlights the
benefits of using tropical timber in construction.
The second section of the Guide describes the wide range
of applications for which tropical timber offers clear
technical, aesthetic and environmental advantages,
including exterior and interior joinery applications, waterprotection
and other heavy duty structural and industrial
applications, boat building, and high value items like
musical instruments and turnery products.
For each application, the guide provides information on
the required properties of timbers, relevant standards, and
a list of appropriate tropical timber species.
For details see: https://www.atibt.org/en/eco-certified-africantimber-