Partial rebound in EU tropical timber imports
EU imports of tropical wood products rebounded in 2018
following a dip in 2017. The pace of tropical wood
product imports increased in the second half of 2018 after
a slow start to the year. (Chart 1)
In total, the EU imported 2.09 million metric tonnes (MT)
of tropical products listed in HS Chapter 44 (excluding
fuelwood, wood waste and chips) in 2018, 6% more than
in 2017. The total value of imports was €2.23 billion in
2018, 4.4% more than the previous year.
In 2018, there were gains in EU imports of tropical
sawnwood, charcoal, mouldings/decking, joinery products,
plywood and logs. These gains were partly offset by a
decline in imports of tropical veneers, flooring, and other
8% rise in EU imports of tropical sawnwood in 2018
Despite a slow start to the year, EU imports of tropical
sawnwood were 716,400 MT in 2018, 8% more than in
2017. Import value also increased, by 10% to €720
million. (Chart 2).
A significant amount of tropical sawnwood arrived into
the EU from Cameroon in the second half of 2018, taking
the total import from that country to 253,400 MT, 5%
more than in 2017.
EU tropical sawnwood imports also increased from most
other leading supply countries in 2018, including Brazil
(+24% to 104,400 MT), Malaysia (+3% to 99,400 MT),
Gabon (+14% to 91,200 MT), Congo (+13% to 47,400
MT), Ghana (+15% to 15,100 MT), Indonesia (+42% to
14,500 MT), DRC (+5% to 13,500 MT) and Myanmar
(+72% to 9,200 MT).
These gains offset declining imports from Côte d'Ivoire (-
10% to 29,400 MT) and Suriname (-8% to 5,900 MT).
The rise in imports from Indonesia, which only allows
exports of S4S lumber, may be partly due to alterations in
the HS codes used to record imports from Indonesia
following introduction of FLEGT licensing.
The rise in EU imports of sawnwood from Indonesia is
offset by a similar decline in imports of mouldings from
In 2018, tropical sawn hardwood imports increased 9% to
247,100 MT in Belgium, bolstered by strong growth in the
second half of the year. Imports also increased in the
Netherlands (+31% to 135,500 MT).
In 2018, around 53% of all EU tropical sawn wood
imports arrived into either Belgium or the Netherlands, up
from 50% the previous year, highlighting the rising role
played by importers in these two countries in distribution
of tropical hardwoods to the wider EU market.
Nevertheless, during 2018 direct imports of tropical sawn
wood recovered some of the ground lost in previous years
in France (+7% to 79,900 MT), Italy (+12% to 72,300
MT), Germany (+12% to 29,500 MT) and Denmark (+7%
to 13,900 MT).
These gains offset a 16% decline to 51,800 MT in the UK,
a 6% fall to 36,300 MT in Spain, a 2% decline to 22,700
MT in Portugal, and a 15% downturn to 8,900 MT in
Ireland. (Chart 3).
EU imports of tropical logs rise 11% in 2018
After a sharp downturn in 2017, EU imports of tropical
logs recovered some lost ground in 2018 but were still at
historically very low levels. Imports of 111,700 MT in
2018 were 11% greater than the previous year.
The value of tropical logs imported by the EU also
increased, by 5% to €55.7 million. As for sawnwood, EU
imports of tropical logs picked up pace in the second half
of 2018 after a slow start to the year.
EU imports of tropical logs increased from Congo, the
leading supplier, rising 7% to 29,600 MT in 2018. There
was also a significant increase in EU log imports from
DRC (+20% to 21,100 MT), CAR (+78% to 21,000 MT),
Liberia (+69% to 5,500 MT), and Guyana (+56% to 1,300
These gains offset declining imports from Angola, from
over 5,000 MT in 2017 to negligible levels in 2017,
Cameroon (-6% to 17,200 MT), Equatorial Guinea (-21%
to 5,900 MT) and Suriname (-37% to 1,300 MT) (Chart 4).
Most of the gain in EU imports of tropical logs in 2018
was concentrated in France (+10% to 39,800 MT) and
Belgium (+40% to 30,100 MT). Imports of tropical logs
were very slow in Portugal in the first half of 2018 but
increased in the second half of the year.
In total, Portugal imported 19,400 MT of tropical logs in
2018, 2% more than the previous year. Italy¡¯s imports also
increased, by 3% to 10,400 MT in 2018.
EU tropical decking imports picked up pace in last
quarter of 2018
EU imports of tropical mouldings (which included both
interior mouldings and exterior decking products)
increased 9% to 170,100 MT in 2018, with the pace of
trade picking up in the last quarter of the year. Import
value increased 13% to €255.7 million.
A 26% rise in EU imports of mouldings from Brazil to
70,800 MT in 2018 offset a 12% decline in imports from
Indonesia to 61,200 MT. As noted earlier, the latter
decline may be partly due to alterations in the HS codes
used to record imports from Indonesia since introduction
of FLEGT licensing.
There was a sharp rise in EU imports of mouldings from
several smaller suppliers of this commodity in 2018,
including Malaysia (+30% to 11,600 MT), Peru (+66% to
8,900 MT), Bolivia (+94% to 5,200 MT), and Viet Nam
(+112% to 1,300 MT). (Chart 5).
In 2018, imports of tropical mouldings increased 36% in
France to 47,700 MT, 11% in Belgium to 28,800 MT,
12% in Italy to 7,100 MT and 11% in Denmark to 4,700
These gains were offset by a 7% decline in imports in the
Netherlands, to 25,400 MT, and an 8% decline in the UK,
to 10,500 MT. Imports were at the same level as the
previous year in Germany (36,300 MT).
EU tropical veneer trade picked up pace in closing
months of 2018
After a very slow start to the year, the pace of EU tropical
veneer imports picked up dramatically in the second half
of 2018, particularly from Gabon, the largest supplier.
In total, EU imports of tropical veneer fell 1.3% to
140,400 MT in 2018. Import value fell 4% to €179.7
million. Imports from Gabon were down 13% by the end
of 2018, at 61,100 MT, having trailed by more than 30%
after the first six months when trade was severely
disrupted by the financial difficulties at Rougier.
In 2018, the decline in EU veneer imports from Gabon
was partly offset by rising imports from Cote d¡¯Ivoire
(+14% to 30,700 MT), Cameroon (+28% to 19,100 MT)
and Congo (+ 15% to 11,100 MT). Imports fell from
several smaller suppliers including Ghana (-10% to 5,000
MT), Equatorial Guinea (-2% to 4,400 MT) and Indonesia
(-18% to 2,600 MT). (Chart 6).
In 2018, imports of tropical veneer in France, the largest
EU market, were down 6% at 48,900 MT, and also
declined 14% to 10,800 MT in Greece, and fell 13% to
5,100 MT in Germany. Imports of tropical veneer
strengthened in South Western Europe in the second half
of 2018, finishing the year up 2.4% in Italy at 33,100 MT
and up 20% at 25,200 MT in Spain.
EU direct imports of plywood from the tropics down
5% in 2018
The EU imported 327,200 MT of tropical plywood in
2018, 2% more than in 2017. Import value increased 2%
to €290.9 million in 2018 (Chart 7).
Direct EU imports of plywood from tropical countries
decreased 5% to 192,100 MT in 2018. While imports from
Indonesia increased 6% to 93,400 MT, imports from
Malaysia fell 16% to 51,800 MT, imports from Gabon
were down 22% at 13,300 MT, and imports from Brazil
fell 17% to 9,300 MT.
Although still only minor suppliers, during 2018 there was
a significant 133% increase in EU imports of plywood
from Viet Nam, to 11,900 MT, and a 22% increase from
Paraguay to 4,900 MT.
The EU imported 121,900 MT of plywood faced with
tropical hardwood from China in 2018, ending the year
15% up on the previous year following a surge in the last
Imports from China earlier in 2018 were disrupted to some
extent by tough new national environmental controls
which forced Chinese mills to interrupt production to
upgrade or replace emission and waste treatment
The EU also imported 13,100 MT of plywood faced with
tropical hardwood from other non-tropical countries in
2018, 3% more than in 2017. Much of the gain was due to
a 115% increase in imports from Russia, to 5,000 MT.
The UK imported 163,100 MT of tropical plywood in
2018, 5% more than the previous year.
The UK is the main EU destination for tropical hardwood
faced plywood from China and was also importing larger
volumes of Indonesian plywood in 2018. (Chart 8)
Last year, tropical plywood imports also increased in the
Netherlands (+6% to 33,100 MT) and Denmark (+7% to
However, these gains were partly offset by falling tropical
plywood imports in Belgium (-6% to 49,000 MT),
Germany (-1% to 26,300 MT), France (-7% to 19,300
MT), and Italy (-2% to 17,900 MT).
Indonesia, Vietnam and Congo boost share of EU
tropical joinery imports
EU imports of tropical joinery products (excluding
flooring) increased 7% to 140,800 MT in 2018. Import
value increased 2% to €270 million.
This category includes a range of wood products, but
mainly doors, laminated kitchen tops, and window
scantlings from the tropics.
In quantity terms, imports from Indonesia, by far the EU¡¯s
largest tropical supplier of joinery products, increased 8%
to 76,800 MT in 2018.
There was also a 59% increase in EU imports of joinery
products from Viet Nam, to 13,800 MT. Imports from
Congo increased from negligible levels to 2,400 MT.
These gains offset a 3% decline in imports from Malaysia
to 39,600 MT. (Chart 9).
Imports of tropical joinery products in the UK, the largest
European destination for this product group, notably of
doors from Indonesia, increased 16% to 61,300 MT in
Last year, imports of tropical joinery products increased
23% to 17,700 MT in Belgium and were up 28% to 12,700
MT in France. However, imports fell 9% to 34,300 MT in
the Netherlands and declined 16% to 8,600 MT in
Another fall in EU imports of tropical flooring
EU imports of flooring products from tropical countries
fell a further 16% to 25,900 MT in 2018, continuing a long
term decline in response to tough competition from
European and Chinese manufacturers and non-wood
alternatives, fashion trends favouring temperate timbers,
supply constraints, and challenges of EUTR conformance.
The value of EU imports of tropical wood flooring
declined 13% to €59.1 million in 2018.
Most of the downturn in 2018 was due to a 32% fall in
imports of hardwood flooring products from Brazil, to
5,200 MT. However imports also fell 9% from Malaysia,
to 8,500 MT, 7% from Indonesia, 6,900 MT, and 36%
from Peru, to 900 MT. (Chart 10).
In 2018, imports fell dramatically in the two largest EU
markets for tropical wood flooring, declining 36% to
5,600 MT in France and 19% to 3,300 MT in Belgium.
However, this decline was partially offset by a 42%
increase in imports in Denmark, to 2,700 MT, and a 21%
increase in Spain, also to 2,700 MT.
But - Another rise in EU imports of tropical charcoal
EU imports of charcoal from tropical countries increased
10% to 355,900 MT in 2018. The value of imports
increased 11% to €139.8 million in 2018. EU imports
increased from Nigeria (+16% to 147,600 MT), Cuba
(+8% to 73,600 MT), Indonesia (+16% to 48,800 MT) and
Venezuela (+177% to 12,000 MT).
These gains offset a 7% decline in imports from Paraguay
to 49,800 MT. (Chart 11).
A wide range of EU countries now import wood charcoal
from tropical countries. The largest destinations (in
descending order in 2018) are Poland (56,700 MT),
Greece (49,500 MT), Germany (49,100 MT), Portugal
(38,000 MT), Italy (32,100 MT), Spain (31,300 MT), UK
(29,400 MT), Belgium (27,900 MT) and Netherlands