EU imports 45,746 m3 of tropical hardwood veneer in first two months, a 19% year-over-year gain; plywood imports from Malaysia drop 27% in two-month period to 54,088 m3 on volatile freight rates, rise in import duties: ITTO

YOKOHAMA, Japan , May 26, 2014 () – EU imports of tropical hardwood veneer in the opening two months of 2014 were 45,746 m3, 19% more than the same period in 2013.

Imports from Ivory Coast were over 60% higher in January to February 2014 than they were during the same period in 2013. Imports also increased from Gabon, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo (Chart 7).

Analysis of the monthly data shows that EU imports of tropical hardwood veneer have been strengthening consistently since the end of 2012, with particularly strong growth in imports from Gabon (Chart 8).

The upward veneer trade trend is partly a result of Gabon‟s restrictions on log exports which has led to EU manufacturers importing veneer instead.

Nevertheless, the recent rise imports from a wider a range of African countries is an encouraging sign that the European market is improving and buyers are being encouraged to source higher value tropical products.

Downturn in EU imports of Malaysian plywood

EU imports of tropical hardwood plywood in the first 2 months of 2014 were 54,088 m3, 27% down on the same period the previous year.

The opening months of 2014 were marked by a particularly big downturn in imports from Malaysia and Indonesia (Chart 9).

European trade with both countries has been severely disrupted by volatile freight rates in 2014.

Slow EU trade in Malaysian plywood was also partly due to a rise in EU import duties with the change in Malaysia‟s GSP status on 1 January 2014. This is clear from monthly data which shows a sharp spike in EU imports from Malaysia in November 2013 followed by consistent decline over the next 3 months (Chart 10).

While EU imports of Indonesian plywood were weak to end February 2014, demand has been rising since March. European trade in Indonesian plywood has been boosted by stronger construction sector activity, particularly in Germany and the UK, and also by rising prices and restricted availability of Russian birch plywood which has been a significant competitor in recent years.

EU imports of tropical hardwood plywood from China in the first two months of 2014 were at the same relatively low level as in 2013. EU imports from China are now much more heavily focused on Mixed Light Hardwood (MLH) products comprising eucalyptus and poplar.

EU imports of MLH plywood in the first two months of 2014 were 143,196 m3, 13% less than the same period in 2013.

However EU imports of this commodity in the early months of last year were inflated as importers built stocks in advance of EUTR enforcement in March 2013. Indications are that EU demand for Chinese MLH plywood has been increasing in 2014 and is better than last year.

Chinese MLH products bearing the Q-Mark issued by BM TRADA are becoming particularly popular in Europe and are taking market share from Malaysian tropical hardwood plywood and Russian birch plywood.

The Q-Mark provides for CE-Marking of Chinese plywood and gives an assurance that the product is fit for purpose. Some Chinese manufacturers are now providing products that are both Q-Marked and FSC or PEFC certified for the European market.

Source: International Tropical Timber Organization, Yokohama Japan. The full report with tables is available here.

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