Total value of tropical wood imports into the EU increased slightly in 2018, although at a slower rate than imports from non-tropical countries tropical wood continued to lose share last year.
Closer analysis of monthly data to end February 2019 reveals a slightly more positive picture, showing that EU imports of tropical timber products began to rise more strongly, both in quantity and value terms, in the second half of 2018.
EU imports began to rise earlier, from the start of 2017, in dollar terms as the euro strengthened significantly against the US currency between December 2016 and February 2018 (Chart 1).
The rise in EU imports of tropical timber in the second half of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019 was driven by several products groups. EU imports of tropical sawnwood, which have been highly volatile in recent years, regained ground lost during the slump in the second half of 2017.
EU imports of wood furniture (excluding seating) from tropical countries have been rising slowly and consistently since the start of 2017, driven by Vietnam and India. Imports of tropical charcoal and plywood have also been rising during this period. Most tropical charcoal is derived from Nigeria and Cuba. The rise in tropical hardwood plywood imports is concentrated in product from China and Indonesia, the latter partly boosted by FLEGT licensing. (Chart 2).
While imports of plywood from Indonesia have been rising, EU imports from Indonesia across all product groups were flat in 2018 and have remained so in 2019. So too have imports from Malaysia.
EU imports from Cameroon have been extremely volatile in recent times, with the overall trend downward. However, there was a slight uptick in imports from Cameroon at the start of 2019.
EU imports from Vietnam, nearly all furniture have been rising steeply since the start of 2018 and this trend continued into the New Year. After a long period of very slow trade, EU imports from Brazil, mainly of decking, have been recovering in the last six months. (Chart 3).