ITTO: Brexit could weaken EU imports of tropical wood in the short term

Tropical wood imports could slow down after the UK leaves the European Union, according to the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).

Currently, the UK is the largest importer of tropical timber in the EU. The UK market accounted for around 25% of the total value of tropical wood imported into the EU last year. This includes primary raw materials, secondary processed products and tertiary products such as furniture. This compares to 15% imported by France, the second largest EU market for tropical timber.

The UK’s import value of tropical timber products increased 32% from EUR 720 million in 2011 to EUR 960 million in 2015. This is in contrast to other leading EU markets for which, during the same period, tropical timber imports were either flat or declining.

The economic slowdown in the UK on the back of uncertainty after the referendum result is therefore likely to have a disproportionately large impact on the EU’s total import of timber products from tropical countries. A large part of the recent growth in UK imports of timber products from these countries has been in the form of furniture from Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia, a trade now likely to slow down in the short-to-medium term.

In the longer term, the demand for tropical timber products in the UK and the EU will depend on how soon the economy re-adjusts to changes as well as the eventual agreed trade terms. If UK recovery is relatively swift, there may be longer term advantages for tropical timber producers (and other non-EU timber product suppliers to the UK), if the new arrangements lead to introduction of tariffs or otherwise impede trade in timber products between the UK and continental Europe’s wood-based products manufacturing sector.