Indonesia and Brazil continue to be the key exporters of decking and interior decorative products—such as moulded skirting and beading—to the EU.
Indonesia’s leading supplier position was due to the popularity of bangkirai for decking as well as Indonesia’s ban on rough sawn exports to encourage greater focus on profiled products.
After a steep rise in 2014, imports from Indonesia remained broadly flat in the next three years and were 69,600 metric tonnes (MT) in 2017, one per cent more than the previous year.
Brazil has access to several Amazonian species like ipe, garapa and massaranduba that perform well as decking timbers. Following a nine per cent decline in 2016, EU imports from Brazil rebounded six per cent to 56,600 MT in 2017.
China’s trade with the EU, on the other hand, declined in recent years due to rising costs of production and declining availability of raw material. Imports from China fell a further 10 per cent to 18,000 MT in 2017.
China depends on imported tropical timber with a strong preference for teak in the decking sector. It also supplies small quantities of interior hardwood mouldings to the EU market.
While total EU trade in decking and similar garden products has been gradually increasing in recent years due to a slow improvement in EU construction activity, tropical timber faces intense competition from substitute materials in this sector, notably Wood Plastic Composites (WPC), thermally-modified European hardwoods and softwoods, and preservative-treated softwoods.
Tropical hardwood decorative mouldings for interior use are also being replaced by European timbers and MDF, so much so that EU imports of hardwood products under this product category declined by just over three per cent in 2017 to 122,800 MT.