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June 18, 2020

UK tropical wood trade succumbs to pandemic impact

UK tropical wood trade succumbs to pandemic impact

The value of UK imports of tropical wood products was US$360 million in the first four months of 2020, 19% less than the same period last year. Although a significant decline, the downturn is perhaps less than might have been expected given the exceptional circumstances surrounding COVID-19.

It is also notable that the start of the decline for most products predated the period of lockdown initiated in the UK from 24th March. UK wood furniture imports from tropical countries have been weakening since the start of 2019 and were particularly slow in February this year.

Imports of tropical plywood and sawnwood have also been sliding since the middle of 2019 (Chart 1).

The trade data to end April implies that the market was slowing even before the lockdown was implemented and has probably captured only a small portion of the COVID19 downturn. A more severe downturn can be expected in May and June.

To some extent weak imports in February and March this year were due to the earlier implementation of COVID-19 lockdown measures in Asian countries which disrupted raw material supplies and exports, particularly of wood furniture from South East Asia and tropical hardwood faced plywood from China.

Comparing the first four months of 2020 with the same period the previous year, UK import value of wood furniture from tropical countries fell 17% to US$206.1 million.

Imports of tropical plywood were down 39% at US$43.4 million, tropical joinery products were down 9% at US$55.2 million, tropical sawnwood fell 20% to US$26.9 million, and mouldings/decking declined 35% to US$6.8 million (Chart 2).

UK imports of wood furniture declined sharply from all the leading tropical supply countries in the first four months of this year (Chart 3).

  • Imports from Vietnam were down 17% at US$109.5 million
  • imports from Malaysia fell 18% to US$43.2 millio,
  • imports from Indonesia declined 23% to 18.4 million and
  • imports from India fell 17% to US$15.4 million



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