EU imports of 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 okoumé log exports were banned by Gabon in 2010, the southern European okoumé plywood sector – now much diminished – relies more heavily on imports of veneer.
The French company Rougier which produces okoumé 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 (see chart).
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 cu.m).
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 – a startling conclusion in a country which little more than a decade ago was at the very centre of the global veneer industry.