The impact of pandemic control measures have hit West African timber producers across the region hard, coming as it has at a time when demand in the traditional markets, especially in Europe, were already under pressure from lower consumptions, changes to other materials and over production of some species.
The weakened EU economies resulted in declining wood product imports from all sources and exports from China to the main western markets have, naturally, dampened demand for the raw materials sourced from West Africa.
In Gabon it has been estimated that about 40% of the Chinese owned mills have stopped production. Mills in Gabon, Congo and Cameroon that are still operating have cut production by as much as 70% of pre-pandemic levels in some cases.
Producers are aware that when the consumer economies recover from the impact of the pandemic they will face the challenge of diversifying marketing, paying more attention to India, Middle East countries, Vietnam, the Philippines and new players in South America.