On June 24, ATIBT participated (represented by LCB) in the General Assembly of the European Timber Trade Federation (ETTF) as a member. After a welcome speech by the President Ad Wesselink, an important part of the exchanges focused on the market situation in the different member states. The data collection portal Themis was also presented and aroused the interest of the participants. Although the exchanges focused on the European timber market as a whole, and not specifically on tropical timber, it is important to come back to this GA, as some of our members are also present on the timber market as a whole.
Regarding the wood markets, in Germany, a very good year was noted in 2021, mainly due to the good price level but also to a sustained demand. In Q1 2022, the increase in demand continued, a slowdown was noted in Q2 and could continue in S2.
In Spain, S1 2022 was strong, a situation that is expected to continue until the end of August. However, consumer confidence is falling, interest rates are rising, and order books are shrinking. In addition, households are shifting their budgets to other spending items. Therefore, there are many unknowns for the beginning of September. The consumption of plywood panels is down.
In France, we note a very good year 2021 carried by the sustained demand of the construction markets (terraces, cladding...). Imports are on the rise. At the level of traders, we can observe a clear evolution of sales figures linked to the price of wood products. In Q1 2022, activity remained sustained but there was a clear slowdown in Q2, particularly in sales to DIY stores, especially for outdoor furnishing products. However, the construction sector should remain buoyant at least until the end of the year. A decrease in site starts is expected in 2023. It should be noted that some project owners have postponed their projects due to the high price of wood products. These projects could reappear.
In Italy, the 2021 imports are down for temperate and tropical hardwoods, but softwood sawn wood imports continue to grow. The war in Ukraine will have a significant impact on the Italian timber markets. Wood producers are being penalized by price levels and the panel sector is experiencing difficulties due to rising energy costs. A slowdown is expected for Q3 and Q4.
In the Netherlands, a country with a strong tradition of imports, the timber trade has been impacted by the crisis in Ukraine. However, inventories of birch plywood remain high. Research is underway to find alternatives using species such as poplar or radiata pine.
In Belgium, the year 2021 has been very good, resulting in a good visibility of the construction sector until the end of 2022. However, high prices have put some projects on hold. Inventory levels are high. Note the difficulties for importers to bring in the last goods from Russia with the administration's request for increased due diligence. Supply difficulties are also to be feared from South America, with many upcoming closures for maintenance operations. Raw materials, glue, labor and energy remain expensive.
In Denmark, timber imports and trade remain good in S1 2022. Interest rates were still negative. Softwood prices in Scandinavia are starting to fall. Some projects are being postponed due to a shortage of raw material and lack of labor (unemployment at zero). The availability of wood seems to be improving.
In addition, Mark van Benthem (Probos) presented the Themis project, which consists of developing a tool to collect data on timber purchases from member companies of European federations. ATIBT has been a partner of this project since the beginning, together with Le Commerce du Bois and Fedustria. Several federations have shown interest in this portal and are expected to join the process. The Themis portal is evolving and will soon allow its users to value their contributions to a low-carbon economy by assessing the CO2 emissions stored in the products sold.