Total EU sawn hardwood imports were up 4% for the first nine months of 2018 at 1.62 million cu.m. Tropical timber was ahead 7% to 720,000 cu.m and temperate hardwood increased 2% to 900,000cu.m.
By supplier country, strongest growth came from Indonesia, albeit from a relatively low base, with EU imports of Indonesian sawnwood up 75% to 17,600 cu.m in the January to September period. All sawnwood exported by Indonesia to the EU has been FLEGT licensed since November 2016, and all must be S4S as rough sawn exports are banned.
In the first nine months of 2018, EU sawnwood imports also increased strongly from Gabon, up 22% to 88,200cu.m, Brazil up 19% to 91,300cu.m and Malaysia, up 10% to 121,600 cu.m.
In temperate species, EU imports from the US, the largest external supplier, were static at 247,200 cu.m in the first nine months of the year. Imports increased 39% to 139,200 cu.m from Russia and 7% to 68,200cu.m from Serbia. However, these gains were partially offset by a 10% fall in imports from Ukraine, to 215,000cu.m, and an 8% fall from Belarus to 47,000cu.m.
By import country, the UK’s total hardwood imports from January to September 2018 were down 4% at 329,300cu.m, with tropical 21% lower at 65,900 cu.m and temperate ahead 2% at 263,400 cu.m. There was a particularly sharp fall in UK imports from Cameroon, Malaysia and Congo, down 17%, 25% and 27% respectively, while imports from Brazil increased 68%, albeit to just 2,400 cu.m.
The slight gain in UK imports of temperate hardwood in the first nine months of 2018 was mainly driven by supplies from other EU countries and much comprised low grade wood from the Baltic States, most likely for the pallets and packaging sector. Imports from the US, the UK’s largest single supplier of sawn hardwood, were static at 74,100 cu.m. Belgian total sawn hardwood imports rose 14% to 323,100 cu.m in the eight months between January and August 2018, with tropical rising 6% to 200,000 cu.m, and temperate rising 28% to 123,100 cu.m.
After a sharp decline in 2018, Belgium’s imports of tropical sawn hardwood rebounded from African countries in the first eight months of 2018, rising 5% to 93,700 cu.m from Cameroon, 17% to 46,300 cu.m from Gabon, and 39% to 12,700 cu.m from Congo. However, there was a sharp 20% fall in imports from Brazil, to 11,300 cu.m, while imports from Malaysia were also down 6% to 9,000 cu.m.
Analysis of Eurostat trade data suggests that Netherlands’ January to August sawn hardwood imports jumped 73% to 352,100 cu.m, with tropical up 70% to 180,200 cu.m and temperate rising 77% to 172,000 cu.m. It may be that this is indicative of the real trend and certainly anecdotal comments by Dutch traders imply good trading conditions in the Netherlands this year.
There are also factors that may be driving significant shifts in hardwood stockholding and trading patterns in northern Europe at present, notably extreme volatility in recent shipments to Europe from Africa, the financial difficulties of some large European companies engaged in the hardwood trade, concerns about Brexit, and tightening enforcement of EUTR.
On the other hand, Netherlands trade data has been quite unreliable in recent years and the level of increase in trade reported this year seems suspiciously high. This data may be amended in the future.
For now, the statistics indicate that Netherlands tropical sawn wood imports in the first eight months of 2018 increased 34% to 62,700 cu.m from Malaysia, 45% to 28,400 cu.m from Brazil, and 141% to 13,800 cu.m from Indonesia. Netherlands imports of sawnwood identified as tropical from other EU countries (mainly Belgium) also increased nearly three-fold to 54,000 cu.m in the first eight months of 2018.
The rise in Netherlands imports of temperate sawn hardwood also came mainly from other EU countries, with imports rising 87% to 44,800 cu.m from Germany, 60% to 28,400 cu.m from France, and more than doubling to 17,200 cu.m from Belgium.
Total German sawn hardwood imports were 222,000 cu.m in the first eight months of 2018, exactly equivalent to the same period in 2017. Imports of tropical sawnwood increased 13% to 47,900cu.m while imports of temperate sawnwood were 3% lower at 174,200cu.m.
The biggest increase in Germany’s tropical sawn imports came from Cameroon, up 25% to 4,500cu.m, and in indirect tropical timber purchases from the Netherlands and Belgium, ahead 31% to 6,500cu.m and 43% to 10,400cu.m respectively.
Germany recorded big falls in imports of temperate sawn hardwood from Belarus and Ukraine, down 24% and 27% to 16,200cu.m and 5,300cu.m respectively in the first eight months of 2018.
Spain’s overall sawn hardwood imports fell 12% to 92,700 cu.m in the first eight months of 2018, with tropical 21% lower at 33,000 cu.m and temperate 7% down at 59,700 cu.m. Steep falls were seen in imports from Cameroon, 39% lower at 29,600cu.m, and temperate hardwood from France, 24% down at 15,800 cu.m.
Spain’s tropical imports from Brazil were up 25% and indirect trade via Portugal increased 86% to 2,800 cu.m. Spain’s imports of sawn hardwood from the United States fell 3% to 21,800 cu.m in the eight month period.
Italy’s total imports of sawn hardwood fell 1% to 449,000 cu.m in the first eight months of 2018. Imports of tropical sawnwood increased 25% to 82,000 cu.m while imports of temperate sawnwood fell 5% to 367,000 cu.m.
Italy’s imports of sawn hardwood from Gabon rose 84% to 19,700 cu.m in the eight month period, while imports from Cameroon rebounded 30% to 40,200 cu.m after a poor year in 2017. Italy’s imports from Cote d’Ivoire fell 15% to 7,400 cu.m, continuing a long-term slide. Italy’s imports from Malaysia also fell, by 23% to 3,200 cu.m.
Italy’s temperate sawn hardwood imports increased from Croatia, by 2% to 119,100cu.m, and the US, by 5% to 38,000cu.m, in the January to August period. However, these gains were offset by declining imports from Hungary (-14% to 43,800 cu.m), Slovenia (-23% to 23,600 cu.m), and Austria (-37% to 15,000cu.m).
For January to September 2018, French sawn hardwood imports were down 1% to 192,600cu.m, with tropical rising 4% to 102,200cu.m and temperate falling 6% to 90,400cu.m.
French imports of tropical sawnwood from Brazil increased 23% to 17,500cu.m in the first nine months of 2018, while imports also increased 19% from Gabon, to 8,100cu.m, and indirect imports via Belgium were up 10% to 15,800cu.m. However, imports into France from Cameroon were 5% lower at 25,200cu.m.
Most temperate sawn hardwood imported into France derives from other EU countries, notably Germany and Romania. French imports from both countries fell sharply in the first 9 months of 2018, down 23% to 22,100 cu.m from Germany and 43% to 5,300 cu.m from Romania.
These declines were partially offset by a 72% increase in French imports from Bosnia, to 5,900 cu.m, a 77% rise from Poland, to 4,300 cu.m, and a 35% rise from Hungary, to 11,000 cu.m.