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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Unexpected Rise in EU27 Tropical Timber Imports in November. ITTO European Market Report 15th February 2021

Total EU27 (i.e. excluding the UK) import value of tropical wood and wood furniture products was US$2.75 billion between January and November last year, 10% less than the same period in 2019. This is a significantly higher level of import than forecast earlier in the year when the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the continent. Total import value in November was US$263 million, a 4% gain on the previous month and 6% more than the same month in 2019 (Chart 1). 

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TTJ Reports UK Hardwood Sales Improving. ITTO European Market Report 30th November 2020

UK hardwood market recovering.

The UK hardwood trade may not be back to normal, and there is continuing anxiety about the effect of a second COVID-19 wave, but the sector has seen sales improving since May. This is according to the latest November/December 2020 hardwood market report in the UK Timber Trades Journal (TTJ – www.ttjonline.com ).

“In April we were at 40% of normal turnover, but we hit 60% in May, 80% in June and July was a good month, not on budget, but ahead of last year,” said a UK importer-distributor. “It’s not business as usual yet, but we’re in a better place than anticipated four months ago.”

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Rebound in UK Imports Continued in September but Prospects Less Certain. ITTO European Market Report 15th November 2020

Harvesting of tropical timber in Ghana

UK imports of tropical wood and wood furniture products continued to rebound in September, with total value rising to USD97.6 million, 30% more than the previous month and the same level as in September 2019 (Chart 1). UK imports strengthened significantly in the third quarter, in line with the recovery in the broader economy and in construction activity and the housing market as lockdown measures eased during the period.

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EU27 Tropical Timber Imports Stronger Than Expected So Far In 2020. ITTO European Market Report 31st October 2020

man cutting wood DIY or construction

EU27 tropical timber imports are stronger than expected so far in 2020. The total EU27 (i.e. excluding the UK) import value of tropical wood and wood furniture products was US$1.98 billion between January and August this year, 14% less than in 2019. This is a significantly higher level of import than forecast earlier in the year with the “Great Lockdown” having a severe impact on the wider EU27 economy and on the supply side in tropical countries. The fact that EU27 trade in tropical wood timber products was cooling even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic makes this performance more remarkable.

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UK Tropical Timber Trade Rebounds Strongly in July and August. ITTO European Market Report 15th October 2020

After a sharp fall in UK imports of tropical timber products in May and June in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, imports rebounded strongly in July and made more gains in August. However, even in August, total imports were still down around 15% compared to the same month the previous year (Chart 1).

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EU Plywood Trade Cautious, But Covid Recovery Faster Than Expected. ITTO European Market Report 30th September 2020.

EU Plywood Trade Cautious, But Covid Recovery Faster Than Expected

EU plywood trade is cautious, but Covid recovery is faster than expected. It’s still too early to say for sure, but it’s variously estimated by European plywood importers and distributors that the Covid-19 pandemic will slice 10-20% off their 2020 bottom line. Trade has since seen a bounce back, varying in degree from country to country, but companies don’t expect it to make up for the sales lost when the health crisis first hit.

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UK Market For African Hardwood “Recovering Well” After Lockdown. ITTO European Market Report 15th September 2020

UK Hardwood Market recovery

The UK market for sawn African hardwood has been recovering well following easing of COVID-19 lockdown measures from June onwards. However, there are significant problems on the supply side with COVID-19 contributing to reduced harvesting and mill operations and a significant reduction in freight capacity.

This adds to the pre-existing challenges imposed by too much focus on a limited range of commercially valuable hardwood species in the UK, a feature of the market which sits uncomfortably with the UK’s strong preference for FSC certified material.

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COVID-19 Downturn in EU27 Tropical Imports May Be Less Severe Than First Forecast – ITTO European Market Report 31st August 2020

The downturn in EU imports of tropical wood and wood furniture products during the initial period of the COVID-19 pandemic may be less severe than first forecast. As expected, EU27 (i.e. excluding the UK) tropical wood and wood furniture product imports fell sharply in May in response to supply side problems and the lockdown measures in most of the main EU markets, losing around one third of value against the five-year average for the month.

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EU Wood Furniture Market: Sliding Before COVID-19 Pandemic – ITTO European Market Report 15th August 2020

wooden chair on blue background

Newly released Eurostat data indicates that the value of EU27+UK wood furniture production was €42.5 billion in 2019, 1.4% less than the previous year. In retrospect, it looks as if the rebound in EU wood furniture production following the 2008 economic crises peaked as early as 2017, as 2019 was the second straight year of decline and the COVID-19 pandemic has damaged market prospects in 2020. Last year, EU wood furniture production was still 20% down, in real terms adjusted for inflation, compared to the years just prior to the 2008 crises.

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