European demand improves but still concentrated on sapele
European demand for tropical sawn hardwood has been firmer in 2014 than during the previous year, particularly for sapele which is now very strongly favoured. Demand has developed particularly well in the UK, although there are also signs of improvement in the
Netherlands and Belgium while demand in Germany and France is stable.
The strong demand for sapele combined with limited supply and long lead times is also filtering through into rising demand for alternatives, notably sipo which is also now experiencing price rises. Demand for framire and iroko have also improved this year, particularly in the UK.
While the European market has improved, European trading companies involved in direct sales to other parts of the world, report generally stronger demand in the US and Asia.
As a result availability of favoured species to European buyers remains restricted. Availability of African sawn hardwood also continues to be constrained by political problems in Central African Republic, shipping delays at Douala port in Cameroon, and reduced overall production capacity following the economic crises. Lead times for forward shipments of sapele into Europe may be up to six months. Asian and South American sawn hardwoods are generally more readily available with significantly shorter lead times. Lack of supply is not only a challenge for tropical
hardwood. European buyers are also struggling to obtain adequate volumes of American hardwoods, particularly of favoured species like white oak and walnut. This is due to the combined effects of strong domestic and Asian demand and log supply problems during the recent long harsh winter.
This has compounded longer-term supply problems associated with reduced production and trucking capacity and lack of access to qualified loggers in the US. Lack of availability of US hardwoods is providing new opportunities for tropical woods to boost share in certain
applications, for example ayous and wawa to replace American tulipwood in moulding applications.