The recovery in EU imports of veneer from tropical countries which began last year has continued into 2016. Imports were 261,600 m3 in the first nine months of 2016, up 18% compared to the same period in 2015.
This follows a 9% gain in imports last year. Imports from Gabon, the leading supplier, increased 25% to 131,500 m3 in the nine month period.
There were also significant increases in EU veneer imports from Cameroon (+11% to 23,200 m3), Congo (+19% to 13,400 m3), Equatorial Guinea (+32% to 6,600 m3), Malaysia (+500% to 6,900 m3), and Thailand (+11% to 4,400 m3). Imports from Côte d'Ivoire (49,400 m3), Ghana (6,800 m3) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (3,200 m3) were stable compared to the previous year.
As in 2015, all the largest EU markets for tropical veneer have been importing more this year (Chart 2). During the first nine months of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015, imports increased into France (+22% to 106,500 cu.m), Italy (+13% to 53,600cu.m3), Spain (+22% to 31,700 cu.m), Greece (+36% to 16,500 cu.m), Germany (+21% to 14,700 cu.m), the UK (+110% to 11,000 cu.m) and Belgium (+75% to 8,200 cu.m).
These gains offset a decline in imports by the Netherlands (-5% to 7,600 cu.m) and Romania (-52% to 6,400 cu.m). EU imports of tropical veneer in the last quarter of 2016 may be disrupted by the uncertain environment in Gabon following the presidential election. However, imports are almost certain to exceed 300,000 m3 in 2016 for the second year in row.
While still down on levels of well over 400,000 m3 prevailing a decade ago prior to the financial crises, the recent growth is an encouraging sign for a sector which had appeared to be in long-term decline.