Latest statistics (to November 2017) show tropical sawn hardwood imports declined sharply last year, reports from ITTO.
The EU imported 822,600 cu.m of tropical sawn hardwood between January and November 2017 was 20 percent less than the same period in 2016.
In the eleven-month period, tropical sawn hardwood imports declined from all 10 of the top suppliers to the EU.
From Cameroon imports fell 21 percent to 293,800 cu.m, from Gabon 21 percent to 93,700 cu.m, from Brazil 6 percent to 92,500 cu.m, Congo 18 percent to 49,900 cu.m, Cote d’Ivoire 21 percent to 45,200 cu.m, Ghana 19 percent to 18,600 cu.m, Democratic Republic of Congo 51 percent to 15,000 cu.m and Ecuador 11 percent to 9,600 cu.m.
According to some importers, one reason is adjustment after over optimistic buying in 2015 and 2016. Trade was further disrupted in 2017 by particularly heavy seasonal rains in both Africa and Asia.
Worsening congestion at the Cameroon port of Douala, due to supply bottlenecks following the rains, combined with lack of dredging resulting in reduced vessel load factors, added to problems in West Africa.
While also pointing out that a significant proportion of timber shipped into their country is en route to other European markets, Belgian importers also attributed the dramatic fluctuation in its imports from Cameroon from 2015/16 to 2017 to post-recession improvement in supplier mills’ capacity and efficiency.
Long lead times immediately after the international downturn, in some cases extending to two years, led to some Belgian importers increasing order volumes to secure sufficient stock.