We summarize here the main trends in tropical timber markets as reported in ITTO's bi-monthly market report.
The sawn hardwood trade in Europe experienced a period of unprecedented demand and good margins in 2021 and the first half of 2022. Growing recognition of the environmental benefits of hardwoods, particularly with a rising focus on zero carbon commitments, also implies strong long term prospects for hardwood products in the region. However short-term market prospects are clouded with uncertainty against the background of sharply rising inflation and declining business and consumer confidence.
The report also goes into some detail about the International Hardwood Conference and its conclusions, which we discuss this week in a dedicated article.
US imports of sawn tropical hardwood rose 15% in September, rebounding from a yearly low in August. Still, the 20,622 cubic metres in September imports fell below that of all other months in 2022.
Imports of Sapelli were up 74% year to September. Imports of Mahogany gained 37% in September and are also up 37% year to date. Imports of Balsa were down 44% in September and are down more than 50% from 2021 year to date. Imports from Cameroon and Congo were both up sharply in September while imports from Brazil recovered somewhat (up 16%) from a weak August showing but were still well below the levels seen for most of the year.
West and Central Africa
The combination of the slowdown in orders from China and bad weather has meant that operators in the GSEZ have cut production and reduced the workforce. The cut back in production means lower log input and this has affected the operations of the independent loggers as it
comes with lower prices. The slowdown in exports to the Chinese market has become very noticeable with purchases of some species specific for China completely halted. For example beli, a timber previously in high demand, is now out of favour as are okan, padouk and even okoume. The only species China is buying at the moment is ovangkol (amazakoue in Cameroon and the Ivory Coast). Producers hope for a revival in demand from China after the February New Year celebrations. There may be some hope as the Chinese government has recently acted to support the real estate sector.
Demand in other markets is reported as stable and there are reports of improved prices for iroko in Middle East markets. However, demand for tali has declined and this is said to be because of higher than usual stock in Vietnam Despite the weak demand for okoume for the Chinese market orders continue to flow from buyers in the Phiippines where there is also interest in dabema.
Producers in Cameroon continue to battle bad weather and have found, while demand for okoume has slipped, there is interest in the red species and ayous with order books healthy for 2-3 months. Log stocks in Douala Port are above normal as demand from China has fallen. To avoid deterioration some logs are being offered to local mills at discounted prices. Port operation at Kribi will likely be affected as work to develop access roads gets underway. The new road, being built with funds from the African Development Bank, will bring improvements when finished. The weak demand for okoume and other species for the Chinese market is affecting producers in Congo. It has been reported that the biggest Malaysian producer, Mai Fay Thai, cut veneer output and reduced forest operations.
For detailed news on international tropical timber markets, please refer to the ITTO Market Report for the first half of November.