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01-15th June 2011


Report from Europe  

 Diminished French influence on tropical timber trade
Traditionally France has played a central role in the
international tropical hardwood trade. Over recent year¡¯s
this influence has diminished as a greater proportion of
tropical hardwood is diverted away from Europe and into
markets in emerging countries, as tropical hardwood has
lost competitiveness in Europe, and as tropical producing
countries have restricted log exports and increased
domestic production.

Nevertheless France remains the leading European
importer of tropical wood, accounting for around 900,000
cu.m (roundwood equivalent volume) of the 4.5 million
cu.m of tropical wood products imported into the EU
during 2010. French companies retain large investments in
the tropical wood industry, notably in Central and West

The French market is particularly relevant at the present
time because it is one the few European countries that
performed reasonably well during the recent economic
downturn. There are also on-going policy processes with
real potential to benefit wood consumption.

Following a downturn in GDP in 2009 (-2.6%), the French
economy recorded robust growth in 2010 (+1.6%) driven
by strong expansion in exports (+9.5%) and government
stimulus measures which boosted private consumption

The economy is expected to grow by a further 1.6% this
year despite progressive phasing out of government
stimulus measures. The French construction sector
continued to shrink by 4.2% in 2010 but at a slower pace
than in 2009 (-7%).

Removal of stimulus measures has little impact on construction activity
Confidence in the construction sector is now improving,
particularly in the new residential and civil engineering
components. Stimulus measures boosted new home sales
to pre-crisis levels by mid2010 and encouraged housing
starts during the second half of 2010.

The removal of stimulus measures was widely expected to
cool the new residential sector this year, but so far activity
has remained reasonable and is being partly offset by an
upturn in renovation and infrastructure projects. A chronic
shortage of housing in France combined with French
attachment to home ownership indicates good longer-term
prospects in the residential construction sector.

In order to reduce carbon emissions and boost the use of
French native forests, wood is now favoured in French
government policy. Government guidelines propose that a
minimum of 2dcm³ of wood should be used for every sq.m
of construction.

In May 2009, President Sarkozy not only reaffirmed this
commitment but indicated that the target should be raised
ten-fold to 20dcm³/m². There is a strong environmental
element in government measures designed to stimulate
residential construction.

Okoum¨¦ plywood consumption falls
While there is strong potential to increase overall wood
consumption, tropical hardwoods have not fared well in
France in recent years. Consumption of okoum¨¦ plywood,
a standard reference product on the French market for
decades, has been declining.

Imports of logs for manufacture of okoum¨¦ plywood in
France have fallen dramatically since 2007. The reduction
in availability in log supply from Gabon following that
country¡¯s log export ban in May 2010, has been only
partly offset by rising log imports from other countries in
the Congo basin.

French imports of tropical hardwood veneer did increase
in 2010, but are still well below levels prevailing in 2007.

Declining production of tropical hardwood plywood in
France has not been offset by any significant increase in
imports of hardwood plywood from other countries. This
may be partly explained by the EU¡¯s imposition of antidumping
duties on okoum¨¦ plywood from China since
November 2004, a measure most recently extended in an
EU decision on 31 January 2011. The European
Commission¡¯s review of the okoum¨¦ plywood market as
background to this decision concluded that the European
industry remained ¡°fragile and vulnerable¡±.

Okoum¨¦ plywood prices benefited little from recent
highs for SE Asian plywood

The okoum¨¦ plywood sector in Europe so far seems to
have benefited little from recent tight plywood supplies in
the Far East and strong plywood demand for
reconstruction activity in Japan. This is despite
manufacturers having product to hand and being able to
offer buyers short lead times of only 2 to 4 weeks.

The reality is that okoum¨¦ plywood in France has come
under increasing competitive pressure from cheaper
substitutes. In the past, okoum¨¦ plywood was strongly
valued in France for its huge versatility. French joiners
would always have a stock of okoum¨¦ plywood at hand
and would use it for a huge range of applications, even
those for which such a high-performance product was not

However, as the construction sector has become more
price competitive and as pre-fabrication has increased, the
demand for okoum¨¦ plywood as a utility joinery product
has diminished. It has been replaced in less demanding
applications by cheaper materials like softwood and
combi-plywood, veneered MDF and various composites.

Okoum¨¦ plywood has increasingly been confined to those
applications where it is specifically required, for example
external applications where durability is essential or
internal applications where the final visual aspect comes

France remains a large and diverse market for tropical
hardwood lumber. The economic downturn led French
imports of this commodity to fall dramatically between
2007 and 2009, from 396,000 cu.m to 218,000 cu.m.

Imports rebounded to 254,000 cu.m in 2010 and have
continued to rise in 2011. Much of the increase this year
has been due to reviving imports from Brazil ¨C which
consist mainly of utility hardwoods used by large French
joinery manufacturers. However supply problems are
hampering more significant recovery in imports from other
tropical countries.

LCB Charter adapted to meet EU due diligence requirements
The French timber trade association Le Commerce du
Bois (LCB) is currently engaged in a process to adapt its
existing Charter for members to ensure it is fully
conformant to the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).

From March 2013 all wood importers in the EU will be
required to implement due diligence systems which
minimise the risk of any timber from illegal sources being
placed on the internal market. LCB is expected to act as a
so-called ¡°Monitoring Organisation¡± (MO) under the
terms of the EUTR. MOs will be mandated to develop and
monitor a due diligence system on behalf of their

LCB¡¯s Charter, which has been mandatory for members
since 2008, already commits French timber importers to
responsible purchasing of timber. A priority of the system
is to increase the supply of certified products year after

Members must also provide their clients with proof of
legality for all non-certified products. Members are
required to clearly identify to their clients the commercial
name, country of origin and form of certification, if any,
for all products. Members are subject to a bi-annual
auditto assess conformance to the Charter.

While the Charter already covers many of the
requirements of the EUTR, a process is underway to
review and update the current documentation, to develop
monitoring capacity, and to cooperate with the French
authorities to develop compliance procedures and
sanctions. To further assist LCB members to conform to
the EUTR after March 2013, LCB is working with the
WWF to develop a database assessing the risk of illegal
wood being sourced from individual suppliers.

Cooperative wood marketing initiative in France
The various French trade organisations representing both
manufacturers of timber products and professional users of
timber have joined together to create a new trade
organization. The newly established FBIE will help raise
the image and visibility of wood as a material and create a
more powerful political lobby in support of wood.

The founding members of the FBIE include the UIB
(wood industry), l'UIPP (panel manufacturers), the FFPPC
(French federation of paper pulp producers), UNIFA
(furniture manufacturers), together with federations
representing joinery contractors. Other members who have
recently joined FBIE includeFNB (F¨¦d¨¦rationnationale du
bois), LCB (Le commerce du bois), l'IRB
(Interprofessionsr¨¦gionales bois).

Related News:



LM       Loyale Merchant, a grade of log parcel  Cu.m         Cubic Metre
QS        Qualite Superieure    Koku         0.278 Cu.m or 120BF
CI          Choix Industriel                                                       FFR           French Franc
CE         Choix Economique                                                        SQ              Sawmill Quality
CS         Choix Supplimentaire      SSQ            Select Sawmill Quality
FOB      Free-on-Board     FAS            Sawnwood Grade First and
KD        Kiln Dry                               Second 
AD        Air Dry        WBP           Water and Boil Proof
Boule    A Log Sawn Through and Through MR              Moisture Resistant
              the boards from one log are bundled                      pc         per piece      
              together                      ea                each      
BB/CC  Grade B faced and Grade C backed MBF           1000 Board Feet          
              Plywood   MDF           Medium Density Fibreboard
BF        Board Foot F.CFA         CFA Franc        
Sq.Ft     Square Foot              Price has moved up or down

Source: ITTO'  Tropical Timber Market Report

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