EU imports of tropical sawn wood increased 12% to 405,600 MT in the first half of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. Import value increased 7% to €388.4 million. This aligns with market commentary earlier in the year, with sawn hardwood importers reporting generally steady, in some cases strong trading in 2019 including in tropical timber, despite some slowdown in economic activity and increased downside concerns about the medium-term outlook.
During the first half of 2019, EU businesses reported some issues with supply, but overall consumption was holding up while sawn hardwood prices were steady to firm with demand underpinned by construction sector consumption. Imports from Cameroon, particularly slow in the first half of last year, increased 20% to 141,000 MT during the first six months of 2019.
Imports also increased sharply from several other countries including Brazil (up 47% to 77,600 MT), Gabon (up 20% to 58,600 MT), Congo (up 38% to 30,200 MT), Ghana (up 17% to 8,800 MT) and DRC (up 32% to 7,300 MT). These gains offset a 29% decline in imports from Malaysia, to 40,900 MT, and a 4% decline from Côte d'Ivoire, 14,200 MT.
The trend towards increased concentration of tropical sawn wood imports into the EU by way of Belgium has continued this year. In the first half of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018, imports into Belgium increased 21% to 145,900 MT. Imports also increased in France (up 9% to 48,200 MT), the UK (up 21% to 29,800 MT), Spain (up 67% to 27,570 MT) and Portugal (+53% to 15,200 MT). However, imports fell 14% to 67,100 MT in Netherlands, 8% to 32,500 MT in Italy, and 7% to 12,600 MT in Germany.
The decline in EU imports from Malaysia this year was attributed by some importers to a decline in the availability of PEFC certified product following the suspension of MTCS certification in Johor and Kedah states led to the total certified area in Malaysia to fall by around 25%. According to MTCS, both states are now working to regain their MTCS certificates.
There was a 40% fall in imports of Malaysian sawn hardwood in the Netherlands, the leading EU destination for Malaysian timber where there is also a particularly strong emphasis on sourcing certified product.
Republic of Congo increasing focus for EU log imports
After recovering a little ground in 2018, EU imports of tropical logs maintained the level of the previous year in the first half of 2019. Imports of 54,400 MT during the first half of the year were 0.3% more than the same period in 2018. Import value fell 3% to €26.2 million during the period.
While EU imports of tropical logs increased by 41% to 17,400 MT from Congo, the leading supplier, and by 48% from Liberia, to 5,300 MT, these gains were offset by falling imports from the Central African Republic (-7% to 9,500 MT), DRC (-29% to 7,100 MT), Cameroon (-14% to 7,000 MT), Equatorial Guinea (-49% to 2,900 MT), and Suriname (-19% to 1000 MT).
After a slow start to the year, tropical log imports picked up pace in France and Belgium in the second quarter of 2019. By the end of the first half, France had imported 22,800 MT of tropical logs, 3% more than the same period in 2018, while imports into Belgium were up 9%, at 14,600 MT.
However, in the first six months of 2019, imports were down 15% to 6,800 MT in Portugal, 12% to 4,800 MT in Italy and 78% to 1,700 MT in the Netherlands.