Production of sawn hardwood in Europe was significantly impacted by the coronavirus crisis in 2020 with a strong decline particularly in France and Germany. Overall, sawn hardwood production declined from around 6 million cu.m in 2019 to just above 5.5 million cu.m in 2020.
However, in 2021 the situation dramatically improved with a 13% increase in production to close to 6.3 million cu.m. This was the highest level of sawn hardwood production in the European Sawmill Organisation (EOS) countries since 2008 and came on the back of a sustained increase in demand. Production is forecast by EOS to decline by 3% this year, back to around 6 million cu.m.
The downturn in production comes at a time when sawn hardwood stocks are already at a low level and is due to log supply shortages rather than a downturn in demand. EOS suggests that “national and European legislation is curbing the availability of raw materials while many hardwood species remain underutilized”.
According to EOS, hardwood supply challenges in Europe are being compounded by high levels of log exports to China, an issue which has been particularly prominent in France and Belgium where shortages of oak log are pronounced.
Furthermore, hardwood companies that rely on foreign trade are negatively affected by the geopolitical situation: long-distance exports are hampered by high freight rates, pandemic-related tension in China and rocketing fuel prices.
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