This aligns with market commentary earlier in the year, with sawn hardwood importers reporting generally steady, in some cases strong trading in 2019 including in tropical timber, despite some slowdown in economic activity and increased downside concerns about the medium-term outlook.
Imports from Cameroon, particularly slow in 2018, increased 11% to 209,000 MT during the first nine months of 2019. Imports also increased sharply from several other countries including Brazil (up 30% to 105,100 MT), Gabon (up 8% to 79,600 MT), Congo (up 32% to 45,800 MT), and Ghana (up 20% to 13,300 MT).
After a strong start to the year, imports from DRC were 10,100 MT in the first nine months of 2019, only 1% more than the same period in 2018. These gains offset a 28% decline in imports from Malaysia, to 57,500 MT, and a 6% decline from Côte d'Ivoire to 20,900 MT.
The decline in EU imports from Malaysia this year was attributed by some importers to a decline in the availability of PEFC certified product following the suspension of MTCS certification in Johor and Kedar states in May this year which led to the total certified area in Malaysia to fall by around 25%.
According to MTCS, both states are now working to regain their MTCS certificates. At present, MTCScertified forest areas consist of 4.2 million hectares of natural forests and 109,025 hectares of forest plantation.
The trend towards increased concentration of tropical sawn wood imports into the EU by way of Belgium has continued this year. In the first half of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018, imports into Belgium increased 11% to 209,200 MT.