Rising plywood imports into the UK in 2014 are due both to higher levels of construction activity and to improvements in the supply side.
UK importers report that Chinese MLH plywood has been readily available this year at stable prices. Orders in the last quarter of 2014 could be shipped from China within around four weeks. However quality consistency remains an issue for some UK buyers of Chinese plywood.
Freight rate volatility has also been a problem again this year. Rates tend to rise at the start of each month and then decline sharply as shipping companies fail to fill available space.
While plywood imports into Germany were strong in the opening months of 2014, the market showed signs of w eakness in the second half of the year. This was primarily due to the recent downturn in the Germany economy. Imports have also been hindered by the German customs decision to reclassify much of the plywood imported from China as laminated wood.
Technically these two products are distinguished by the direction of grain in alternate veneer layers – in plywood the grain is crossed at right angles whereas in laminated wood it is parallel. Plywood attracts a duty of only 7% while laminated wood attracts a duty of 10%.
In the absence of reliable assurances that only products glued crosswise are supplied by Chinese suppliers, some German importers are switching back to alternative products including European birch and softwood plywood.