Dynamic plywood market driven by China

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At the end of March 2023, Germany's plywood importers thought they were in a different world compared to the previous year. GD Holz's Foreign Trade Day 2022 had taken place just before the EU's first ever package of sanctions against Russia and Belarus and nobody could have foreseen the paths the plywood trade would take within a year of war. Even this year’s guest speaker Panu Anttila could not summarize in a keynote what has happened in detail during this time. But the founder of Plywood This Week provided insights into the global hardwood plywood market, focusing on China, Germany and Russia for his detailed accounts.

3 million m3 of birch plywood are missing worldwide

According to FAO data, China's 6,000 manufacturers produced 76.3 million m3 in 2021, almost two thirds of the hardwood plywood used worldwide and, with a ten-year increase of 10.7 million m3, were also the top growth drivers of the past decade. India's output also increased immensely - by 5.9 million m3 to 10.1 million m3, which means that the 2021 third-placed manufacturer compared to North America - in which 2000 manufacturers produced a virtually stable 11.4 million m3 - caught up enormously. In Southeast Asia, 5.4 million m3 of hardwood plywood were pressed in 2021, which means that the volume has increased by 700,000 m3 since 2011. The EU produced 4 million m3 (+500,000 m3) in 2021 and the African continent produced 1.3 million m3 (+500,000 m3).

While 4.6 million m3 (+1.5 million m3) were still produced in Russia in 2021, the volume fell to 3.3 million m3 in 2022, of which only parts end up on the world market. 3 million m3 of birch plywood are now missing.

China increases exports to Nigeria

In 2022, China exported 7.8 million m3 of hardwood plywood. The largest changes in the order of recipient countries were in Great Britain (-32% to 291,862 m3) and Nigeria (+33% to 248,331 m3). According to China Customs Statistic, the People's Republic imported about 600,000 m3 of veneer for production - 119,000 m3 of it from Russia (+36% compared to 2021). 1.8 million m3 of birch logs were also imported.

Germany increases imports from China

Germany imported around 500,000 m3 of hardwood plywood in 2022. The monthly volume has decreased from May 2022. From August 2022 to January 2023, 74,000 m3 came from China (+25%), 41,000 m3 from Finland (-24%), 21,000 m3 from Latvia (+18%) and 18,000 m3 from Poland. However, China's deliveries vary considerably on a monthly basis and there are also large differences in quality from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Due to the dynamic conditions, Antilla was unable to make any sharp forecasts, so he recommends a broad range of suppliers, customers and types of wood. Poplar, maple, acacia, beech and eucalyptus are currently being traded as alternatives.

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