U.S. sawn hardwood exports to Europe rise 12% on the back of strong UK recovery

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U.S. sawn hardwood exports to Europe were 201,000 m3 in the first six months of 2014, a 12.4% gain compared to the same period the previous year. Export value increased 20% to $154.6 million. Trade was boosted by a 40% rise in the volume of exports to the UK, which amounted to 53,910 m3 during the six month period. Such was the pace of exports that the UK overtook Italy to become the largest volume market for U.S. sawn hardwood in the first half of 2014. (Chart1)

Exports during the first six months of 2014 were also buoyed by a recovery in exports to Germany (+10% to 26,550m3), Spain (+13% to 14940 m3), and Sweden (+31% to 7,460 m3). However, exports declined to Italy (-8% to 46,910 m3) and Portugal (-8% to 9,820 m3) during the six month period.

Amongst smaller European markets, there was a strong recovery in exports to Estonia, Ireland, Denmark, Greece, Poland, Lithuania and Malta in the first six months of 2014 (Chart 2). However exports declined to Belgium, Netherlands, and France during this period.

The second quarter of 2014 was particularly strong for exports to Europe coming at the end of the long hard winter in the U.S., which constrained supply and with some signs of improvement in the EU economy, particularly in the UK.

According to AHEC’s European Director David Venables, “This is the first positive sign for some time that the hardwood demand in Europe is at last improving. Of course with continued concerns over the economic performance of the Eurozone, it is probably too early to talk of a sustained recovery in exports. But the news from the UK is very encouraging with hardwood exports from the USA currently running at levels well in excess of those before the onset of the global financial crisis in early 2008.”

Oak remains very fashionable in all sectors in Europe from furniture and joinery to architectural interiors. It is therefore no surprise that American white oak is the number one species exported from the USA. In fact, exports of sawn white oak to Europe were 87,740m3 in the January to June 2014 period, 13% up on the same period in 2013. Exports of white oak to the UK, Sweden, Spain, Denmark and Poland have recovered strongly this year, offsetting a decline in exports to Italy, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands and France.

Another positive trend is the steady increase in tulipwood exports to Europe, which were up again in the first half of 2014 by 17% to 56,440m3, compared to the same period last year. What is particularly encouraging about the tulipwood exports is the clear evidence that this species is being used more widely across a range of EU markets, and not just in Italy where it has always been popular with manufacturers. “AHEC has had a sustained campaign in Europe to promote tulipwood as a decorative and high performance hardwood that represents exceptional value for money,” says David Venables. “The statistics are confirming what we are seeing in the market, which is more demand for tulipwood and an increase in its use, both structurally and decoratively. It also has enormous potential for exterior use when thermally modified.”

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