Some Encouraging Signs for European Furniture Sector. ITTO European Market Report 15th July 2021

The global significance of the European furniture sector, and some positive signs for the sector after the turmoil caused by the COVID pandemic, are highlighted in recent reports in World Furniture, the trade journal of CSIL, the Milan-based furniture market research organisation (www.worldfurnitureonline.com). 

In the editorial to the most recent edition (June 2021) of World Furniture, Paola Govoni notes that “the disruptive consequences of the last 18 months are there for all to see. A lot has changed on every level and some of these developments could be here to stay. At the time of writing there are encouraging signals in Italy and most of Europe showing that the summer could be the beginning of an exit-phase from the pandemic. Major international economies have entered a recovery path and the strengthening of the increasing trend resulted in an upward revision of growth forecasts in many countries”.

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UK Tropical Wood Import Value in April at Highest Level Since 2008-09 Financial Crises. ITTO European Market Report 30th June 2021

The UK imported tropical wood and wood furniture products with a total value of USD419 million in the first four months of 2021, an 18% increase compared to the same period in 2020. There was a particularly sharp increase in April when imports were USD129 million, the highest monthly import value recorded since before the financial crises of 2008-2009. 

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Survey Highlights Benefits of FLEGT Licensing to European Market Prospects. ITTO European Market Report 15th June 2021

A survey of over 130 companies in the EU+UK, including a significant proportion of the region’s largest importers of tropical timber products, highlights that FLEGT licensing has helped boost market prospects for Indonesian products. It also shows that implementation of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) and associated rising dependence on certified products has led to a narrowing in the range of tropical companies supplying the region overall. 

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UK Tropical Wood Imports Recover Ground Despite Supply Challenges. ITTO European Market Report 15th May 2021

The UK imported tropical wood and wood furniture products with a total value of US$290 million in Q1 2021, a 2% increase compared to the previous quarter and 6% up on Q1 2020 (even before the effects of the COVID pandemic were being felt – Chart 1). The strong performance in the first three months of this year reflect both a robust rise in consumption in the UK, supported by strong government stimulus measures, and the late arrival of delayed shipments from the previous year. The rise occurred despite severe logistical problems that have emerged in shipment of tropical wood products to the UK since the start of the pandemic. 

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Record Low EU27 Tropical Timber Imports in 2020. ITTO European Market Report 30th April 2021

Total EU27 (i.e. excluding the UK) import value of tropical timber and wood furniture products was US$2.99 billion in 2020, 9% less than the previous year. This is a significantly higher level of import than forecast when the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the continent early in 2020. It was, however, the lowest level in recent decades and represented a further decline in a market that has been severely restricted ever since the financial crises (Chart 1).

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Proposals for FLEGT and EUTR to Be Merged With EU “deforestation-free” Regulations. ITTO European Market Report 15th April 2021

The EU is considering the introduction of new forest and climate policy measures which would reshape timber trade relations with tropical countries. In some ways, the proposed measures build on the existing policy framework contained in the FLEGT Action Plan. However, they also raise questions about the future of existing instruments such as the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) and FLEGT licensing systems.

The potential far-reaching implications of the ongoing policy discussions were highlighted in a presentation by Hugo Schally of the European Commission’s Environmental Directorate (EC DG ENV) to a webinar hosted by FERN, the Brussels based environmental NGO, on 17 March 2021 which brought together a range of policymakers and civil society stakeholders for presentations and discussions on the theme “Enforcing Due Diligence regulation for forest risk commodities”[1].

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Plywood Margins Are Good but Supply a Struggle. ITTO European Market Report 31st March 2021

The good news from the majority of European hardwood plywood importers interviewed in March 2021 was that they were making money. They reported demand ranging from firm to booming across the market, from the construction and DIY sector to merchants and furniture makers. Moreover, customers were willing to pay a healthy price.

“If you can’t make a good margin in the current climate, you never will,” said one importer.

Another reported their customers ‘accepting the real value’ of plywood and timber generally. “Traditionally most view plywood as a stack it high, sell it cheap commodity, but the market situation is such now that they’re having to pay more like its true worth” they said. “There’s strong demand and less opportunity to play suppliers off against each other. We’re experiencing less negotiating from customers and less bad debt. It’s definitely a seller’s market.”

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Sharp Fall in UK Tropical Wood Imports in 2020 Likely to Be Short-Lived. ITTO European Market Report 15th March 2021

Total UK tropical wood and wood furniture imports in 2020 were USD981 million, 23% less than the previous year (Chart 1a). It is no surprise that imports fell so precipitously, the UK being amongst the world’s worst affected countries by the COVID-19 pandemic last year at a time when there was already uncertainty due to the country’s departure from the EU. However, UK imports from tropical countries did suffer a larger decline in the UK market than products from other regions, largely due to supply side problems, particularly lack of and rising costs of freight space from South East Asia during the year. But underlying demand is strong in the UK and new opportunities may well open up for tropical suppliers in the UK over the long term.

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Sharp Fall in Tropical Share of European Wood Products Market During Pandemic. ITTO European Market Report 28th February 2021

Despite upheaval in the EU27+UK wood market and wider economy in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the total dollar value of EU27+UK imports of wood (HS44) and wood furniture (HS94) products fell only 4% to US$21.86 billion euro in 2020. In dollar terms, EU27+UK imports in 2020 were higher than during the 2015-2017 period and not significantly out of alignment with the trend of the previous 10 years (Chart 1).

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