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March 1, 2021

EU wood furniture imports down 3% in 2020

EU wood furniture imports down 3% in 2020

EU wood furniture imports down 3% in 2020 Considering individual products, the dollar value of EU27+UK imports of wood furniture decreased by 3% to US$7.4 billion in 2020 after a 4% increase in 2019. Wood furniture imports from temperate countries fared much better than imports from tropical countries during the year.

Imports of wood furniture from China, which alone accounts for around 50% of the EU27+UK external trade, declined only 3% to US$3.7 billion. Imports of wood furniture from all the other leading supply countries in temperate regions increased during the year including Turkey (+19% to US$335 billion), Bosnia (+6% to US$233 billion), Ukraine (+17% to US$215 billion), Belarus (+28% to US$183 billion) and Serbia (+3% to US$153 billion).

In contrast, there was a universal fall in imports of wood furniture from tropical countries in 2020, including Vietnam (-14% to US$751 billion), Indonesia (-12% to US$367 billion), India (-6% to US$280 billion), and Malaysia (-16% to US$222 billion).

Such consistency across the board - with rises in imports from temperate countries matched by declines from tropical countries - is unusual.

It may be a short-term adjustment as European importers switched to more regional suppliers with the sharp drop in availability of container space and rising freight rates and other problems in sourcing products from South East Asia during the pandemic.

On the other hand, it may have long term consequences if it reinforces the trend towards ‘reshoring’ and a preference for sourcing furniture from neighboring countries in Eastern Europe on-going now for some time in the region.

A similar trend is apparent for sawnwood. EU27+UK imports of sawnwood (inclusive of both softwood and hardwood, and decking) declined 6% to US$3.79 billion in 2020 following a 7% fall the previous year.

The biggest falls in sawnwood imports during 2020 were all reserved for tropical suppliers. Imports fell 15% from Cameroon to US$223 million, 12% from Brazil to US$237 million, 17% from Malaysia to US$117 million and 15% from Indonesia to 114 million.

In contrast to tropical wood, imports of sawnwood from Russia, by far the largest external supplier, recovered 9% to US$889 million after falling 11% the previous year. Imports from Belarus also remained quite stable in 2020, declining only 2% to US$462 million after a 4% fall the previous year.

Most sawnwood imports from Russia and Belarus comprise softwood and lower value hardwood species such as birch and aspen. EU27+UK imports of sawn wood from both countries have been high in recent years following imposition of log export bans.

Imports of sawnwood from Ukraine, comprising a mix of softwood and hardwood, fell 12% in 2020 to US$310 million following a 13% fall the previous year. Imports from the United States, almost exclusively hardwood, are also declining, down 14% to US$291 million in 2020 following a 13% decline the previous year.

EU27+UK imports of plywood and other wood panels decreased 7% to US$2.95 billion in 2020 after a 14% decline the previous year.

This European market for plywood and panels weakened sharply in the second half of 2019 with widespread reports of overstocking and falling prices as the economy began to cool at that time. The onset of the pandemic last year deepened the prevailing downward trend.

With few exceptions, the downturn impacted on all the leading suppliers of plywood and panels, both in temperate regions and the tropics. Imports from Russia fell 5% to US$694 million following a 14% decline the previous year, similarly China fell 5% to US$510 million in 2020 following a 14% decline in 2019, Ukraine was down 7% in 2019 and 1% in 2020 to US$304 million, and Brazil fell 16% in 2019 and 26% in 2020 to only US$225 million.

Of temperate suppliers, only Belarus made gains in 2020, rising 6% to US$249 million but this followed a 19% fall the previous year.

Amongst tropical suppliers of plywood and panels, EU27+UK imports declined 30% to US$86 million from Indonesia in 2020 after a 13% fall the previous year. However, in 2020 gains were made by Gabon, with imports rising 13% to US$110 million after a 5% fall the previous year, and Malaysia, from where imports increased 5%, to US$37 million, after falling 33% the previous year.

Following nearly 20 years of almost uninterrupted growth, the dollar value of EU27+UK imports of energy wood fell 1% to US$3.18 billion in 2020. Imports of energy wood are now dominated by pellets from North America, Russia and the CIS countries. Imports from the United States continued to rise in 2020, by 3% to US$ 1.4 billion, and also increased 25% from Canada to US$374 billion.

Imports from Russia were US$501 million in 2020, no change compared to 2019. However, imports from Belarus fell 3% to US$190 million in 2020. Imports from Ukraine, which includes much charcoal as well as pellets and other fuelwood, declined 7% to US$185 million in 2020.

EU27+UK imports of logs declined 8% to US$680 million in 2020 after a 15% fall the previous year. In 2020, imports fell from nearly all the countries that continue to allow log exports, including Russia (-5% to US$290 million), Norway (-15% to US$223 million), Switzerland (-19% to US$43 million), and USA (-15% to US$35 million).

However, after falling to negligible levels in 2018 and 2019 following imposition of tight export controls, log imports from Belarus increased sharply last year to US$21 million.

After years of decline, EU27+UK log imports from tropical countries are now very low and fell from all main supply countries in 2020, down 15% from Republic of Congo to US$18.1 million, 31% from Central African Republic to US$6.2 million, and 44% from DRC to US$3.7 million.

The value of EU27+UK imports of wood flooring fell 6% to US$640 million in 2020 after a 3% fall the previous year.

Flooring imports from China, by far the largest external supplier accounting for around two thirds of the total, declined 9% to US$385 million in 2020, while imports from Ukraine were down 4% to US$97 million. However flooring imports from Malaysia increased last year, by 25% to US$29 million. Imports from Indonesia were down 4%, to US$21 million, continuing a long-term downward trend.

EU27+UK imports of ‘other’ joinery products (i.e. excluding flooring and mainly comprising doors and laminated wood for window frames and kitchen tops) fell 3% to US$880 million in 2020 after a gain of 5% the previous year. Imports from China were stable at US$206 million in 2020 after rising 4% in 2019.

However, imports from Indonesia were down 16%, to US$174 million, reversing the 9% gains made the previous year. Imports from Malaysia also declined in 2020, by 6% to US$95 million after rising 10% in 2019. Imports from Vietnam increased by 1% to US$26.7 million in 2020, building on a 14% gain in 2019.



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