EU imports of tropical veneers increased 7% to 257,700m3 in the first 11 months of 2015, with growth driven primarily by rising trade between Gabon and France, according to the ITTO. Growth in volume was matched by a 6% increase in value to €162 million. EU imports from Gabon increased 13% to 126,300m3 during the first 11 months of 2015. Since okoumé log exports were banned by Gabon in 2010, the southern European okoumé plywood sector – now much diminished – now relies heavily on imports of veneer.
Demand for okoumé plywood has picked up in Europe in 2015 due to the recovery in the Netherlands’ building industry and slow improvement in the French market.
The French company Rougier, which produces okoumé veneers and plywood in France and Gabon, reported an 11.8% increase in revenue for its European business in the first 3 quarters of 2015, reflecting an improvement in Europe’s economic climate.
In addition to Gabon, EU imports of tropical veneer also increased during the first 11 months of 2015 from Cameroon (+16% to 27,100m3), Congo (+2% to 14,500m3), and Ghana (+22% to 8,600m3). However imports from Ivory Coast declined 3% to 60,80m3.
France and Italy, now the largest EU markets for tropical veneer, both registered double-digit increases in imports, rising 14% to 104,791m3 and 16% to 60,737m3, respectively. There were also significant increases in imports by Greece (+25% to 14,467m3) and Romania (+43% to 14,034m3).
Of the five largest EU markets for tropical veneer, Spain reported a decline in imports (- 16% to 32,411m3). Germany (-17% to 12,893m3) and Belgium (-47% to 6,343m3) also imported less during the period.
The German veneer association IFN concluded during its annual meeting in June 2015 that veneers were increasingly becoming a niche product in the German market. A little more than a decade ago, Germany was at the very centre of the global veneer industry.