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 year before.
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 Indonesia.