Many of the same factors contributing to the downturn in EU imports of tropical sawn timber are also now impacting trade in tropical veneer. Following three years of recovery, EU imports of hardwood veneer from the tropics declined six per cent to 310,000cbm in 2017.
The decline in EU imports of tropical veneer contrasts with a significant rise in imports of veneer from temperate countries which climbed 17 per cent to 262,000cbm last year.
Imports from Ukraine, the EU’s largest external supplier of temperate hardwood veneer, increased nine per cent to 89,000cbm in 2017, while imports from Russia, the second largest supplier, increased 35 per cent to 57,000cbm.
These increases in veneer imports from Eastern European countries during 2017 were driven partly by very weak exchange rates in the region, which has increased export competitiveness, and partly by policy measures to limit log exports and increase wood processing capacity in these countries.
In total, the EU imported 572,000cbm of hardwood veneer in 2017, three per cent more than in 2016. The share of tropical veneer in total EU veneer import volume fell from 60 per cent in 2016 to 54 per cent last year.
EU imports of hardwood veneer from Gabon, the leading tropical supplier, ended the year nine per cent down compared to 2016 at 152,000cbm. EU veneer imports also declined from Côte d’Ivoire in 2017, by 12 per cent to 69,000cbm.
Imports from Cameroon were stable at 32,000cbm in 2017, but increased three per cent to 18,000cbm from Congo, nine per cent to 10,000cbm from Ghana, and 11 per cent to 11,000cbm from Equatorial Guinea.
The downturn in EU imports of tropical veneer during 2017 was mostly in France, Italy and Germany.
Imports fell 17 per cent to 113,000cbm in France, seven per cent to 69,000cbm in Italy, and 26 per cent to 12,000cbm in Germany. These falls were partially offset by rising imports in Spain (+4% to 49,000cbm), Greece (+27% to 25,000cbm), and Romania (+28% to 16,000cbm).