The EU market is the largest consumer and importer of timber and timber products in the world. On a country level, however, a different picture exists: global imports are led by the USA; Japan is also a major importer, but its role in the global timber trade is declining; China, on the other hand, becomes an important player in the timber market. The latter mainly imports raw materials and exports finished timber products. In doing so, China takes the lead in the global furniture trade, hereby strongly affecting the market share of traditional low-cost furniture exporters, such as Malaysia and Indonesia.
The EU construction sector is the most important market sector for timber and timber products and uses up to 70% of all timber consumed in the EU, followed by the further-processing industry (most notably the furniture industry). The DIY market segment is of less importance, although its market share in sales of timber and timber products is steadily increasing.
Consumption can be divided among the following market segments:
- Construction sector (e.g. housing, marine and civil engineering);
- DIY (Do-It-Yourself);
- Further Processing Industry: packing industry (e.g. pallets, boxes, crates and coils); Furniture industry (e.g. interior design and garden articles); Carpentry and wood-working industry (e.g. window frames, doors and stairs); Flooring.
- Paper and pulp industry;
- Wood energy.
Trends and developments
The short-term prospects for the EU timber market, mostly concerning the professional market (i.e. professionals/ service providers working in the timber industry), are rather negative. Hardwood consumption has been especially hit by the current economic downturn, thus increasing competition among exporters to, and traders in, the EU.
Global competition in the timber trade increased in the past few years. Demand is growing, driven by the growth in wood-processing industries in some Asian countries (particularly China) and Eastern Europe, as well as the increased importance of wood as a sustainable energy source. European government officials and key experts foresee a shortage of sustainably managed timber in the near future.
Forest Certification is both a system of forest inspection and a means of tracking timber and paper through a ‘chain of custody’ (CoC) – following the raw material through to the finished product. This is to ensure that the products have come from forests which are well managed – in terms of environmental, social and economic principles. In general, the market impact of certification has been far greater in Europe (and here only in certain countries) than in Japan or the United States of America.
FSC is an independent international organisation, established to promote responsible management of the world’s forests through standards setting, certification and labelling of forest products. In 2008, more than 100 million ha were FSC-certified, distributed over 79 countries; the value of FSC labelled sales was over € 13 billion (FSC, 2008). According to FSC International, the market share of certified timber and timber products in the EU is approximately 6-7%. Although this percentage varies significantly among the different EU countries and also depends on the product group, the market share is growing in all EU member states (FSC, 2008).