Wood products - production and trade
Data extracted in June 2018.
Planned article update: June 2019.
21.6% of the EU’s roundwood production in 2016 was used as fuelwood, the rest was industrial roundwood used for sawnwood and veneers, pulp and paper production.
In 2015 about 420 000 enterprises were active in wood-based industries across the EU-28; they represented 20 % of manufacturing enterprises across the EU-28.
This article is part of a set of statistical articles that the Eurostat online publication "Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics" and other publications are based on. It presents statistics on production and trade in wood products in the European Union (EU).
The European Union (EU) accounts for approximately 5 % of the world’s forests and contrary to what is happening in many other parts of the world, the forested area of the EU is slowly increasing. Apart from the forests' ecological value and impact on the EU landscape, the forest sector is also an economic resource. This article presents indicators on the volume of roundwood and sawnwood production as well on the performance and employment of the EU's wood-based industries. The last part of the article covers figures on international trade in timber, and in particular tropical wood.
Primary wood products
Among the EU Member States, Sweden produced the most roundwood (81 million m3) in 2016, followed by Finland, Germany and France (each producing between 51 and 61 million m3) (see Tables 1 and 2). Slightly more than one fifth (21.6%) of the EU-28’s roundwood production in 2016 was used as fuelwood, while the remainder was industrial roundwood used for sawnwood and veneers, or for pulp and paper production.
In 2016, three EU Member States (Slovakia, Sweden and Portugal) reported that over 90 % of their total roundwood production was industrial roundwood. In Cyprus, Greece (2014), the Netherlands, Italy (2015), Denmark and France, over half of the roundwood produced in 2016 was fuelwood. For Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Estonia, the share of fuelwood varied between 32 and 47 % of the roundwood production. In many EU Member States, however, no estimates of fuelwood consumption by households are included in the numbers reported in the Joint Forest Sector Questionnaire (JFSQ). Separate studies would be needed to produce such estimates, because this wood may be acquired informally, including from forests owned by households. The numbers are probably under-reported in several EU Member States, given the recent increases in the EU’s production of wood pellets and other agglomerates used for energy and the share of wood in gross inland energy consumption, most of which should come from harvested fuelwood (see Wood as a source of energy).
The overall level of EU-28 roundwood production reached an estimated 458 million m3 in 2016, only 4 million m3 (0.4 %) less than the peak output level recorded in 2007. Note that some of the peaks (most recently 2000, 2005 and 2007) in roundwood production were due to forestry and logging having to cope with unplanned numbers of trees that were felled by severe storms.
From 1996 to 2007, there was a steady increase in the level of roundwood production in the EU-28. While the output of non-coniferous (broadleaved or hardwood) species remained relatively stable, there were greater year-on-year differences for coniferous (softwood) species (see Figure 1). The effects of the financial and economic crisis led to a drop of the level of EU-28 coniferous production in 2008, a finding confirmed by a further reduction in 2009. The output has since returned to pre-crisis levels of approximately 312 million m3 per annum. Non-coniferous production increased relative to coniferous production ever since the crisis years. In 2010, EU-28 total roundwood production rebounded strongly by 10 % and continued to rise in 2011, levelled out in 2012 and 2013, and remained stable in 2016.
The total output of sawnwood across the EU-28 was approximately 100 (106 in 2016) million m3 per year from 2010 to 2016, some 5 % lower than in 2005. The situation has now returned to the average production level of the years preceding the crisis. Germany and Sweden were the EU’s leading sawnwood producers, regularly accounting for approximately 21 % and 17 % of the EU-28 total output over the past few years (see Table 3).
The EU’s wood-based industries cover a range of downstream activities, including woodworking industries, large parts of the furniture industry, pulp and paper manufacturing and converting industries, and the printing industry. Together, some 420 000 enterprises were active in wood-based industries across the EU-28; they represented one in five (20.0 %) manufacturing enterprises across the EU-28, highlighting that - with the exception of pulp and paper manufacturing that is characterised by economies of scale - many wood-based industries had a relatively high number of small or medium-sized enterprises.
The economic weight of the wood-based industries in the EU-28 as measured by gross value added was equivalent to EUR 139 billion or 7.3 % of the manufacturing total in 2015. The distribution of value added across each of the four wood-based activities in 2015 is presented in Table 4. Within the EU-28’s wood-based industries, the highest share was recorded for pulp, paper and paper products manufacturing (32.9 % or EUR 46 billion), while the other three sectors had nearly equal shares — printing and service activities related to printing and the manufacture of furniture each amounted to 21-22 % of the gross value added of wood based industries, while the manufacturing of wood and wood products made up 24 %.
Between 2005 and 2015 the overall added value generated within the EU-28’s manufacturing industries increased nominally by 11 %, while the wood-based industries experienced a decrease in activity as gross value added fell by 10 %. Reductions in activity were recorded by three wood-based industries, with the largest decline in output recorded for printing and service activities related to printing (– 25.80 %). The added value generated by the EU-28’s wood and wood products manufacturing enterprises fell by 7.8 % and for manufacture of furniture by 19.0 % between 2005 and 2014. Only the added value of pulp and paper production increased, by 14.1 %.
The wood-based industries employed 3.3 million persons across the EU-28 in 2015 or 11 % of the manufacturing total. There were 2.0 million persons employed within both the manufacture of wood and wood products and the manufacture of furniture, 644 000 persons were recorded for the activity of pulp, paper and paper products manufacturing, the lowest employment of the four activities.
A longer time series and fresher data are available for employment within three of the wood-based industries. Across the EU-28, manufacturing employment fell by 15.7 % during the 2000–16 period, while the largest losses among the three wood-based industries shown in Figure 2 were recorded for furniture manufacturing (28.0 % fewer persons employed). Pulp, paper and paper products was less affected (21.9 % reduction in employment during the 2000–16 period), while employment in manufacturing of wood products dropped by 24.8 %. The forestry and logging industry had an employment decrease only of 3.6 % from 2004 to 2015. This may be explained by the ever-present need to manage forests and the increasing demand for fuelwood.
Each of the wood-based industries, in keeping with most manufacturing sectors, experienced a reduction in the number of persons employed during the 2000–15 period. The development of EU-28 employment for wood and wood products and furniture manufacturing closely followed the overall pattern for total manufacturing during the period 2000–08. Thereafter, with the onset of the global financial and economic crisis, job losses for these two wood-based industries accelerated at a faster pace than the manufacturing average. In contrast, employment in the upstream supply of timber to the wood-based industries presented a peak in 2008 (following the 2007 storms) and an increase from 2011 onward.
Tropical wood imports to the EU
The EU has agreed a voluntary scheme titled the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan to fight illegal logging and associated trade. One key element of the plan is to ensure that only legally harvested timber is imported to the EU. The EU's legal framework for the scheme is Regulation 2173/2005 on the establishment of a FLEGT licensing scheme for imports of timber into the European Community’ and a 2008 Regulation 1024/2008 laying down detailed measures for the introduction of the scheme.
Bilateral FLEGT agreements between the EU and various tropical wood producing nations are designed to halt trade in illegal timber, notably with a license scheme to verify the legality of timber exported to the EU. Agreements have been concluded or are being negotiated with fifteen tropical countries that have signed or are in the process of signing voluntary partnership agreements (VPAs) with the EU: Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Indonesia, Liberia, Congo (Republic of the Congo), Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Guyana, Honduras, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Table 5 (and Figure 4) shows the value of all wood imports to the EU-28 from the 15 FLEGT-VPA countries, while Table 6 (and Figure 3) shows the value of imports of wood specified as tropical. Both tables also show the respective total imports to the EU-28 from all countries of the world.
Table 5 shows the potential value of all legal timber that could enter the EU from its partners with bilateral FLEGT agreements. The value of these imports reached a peak of EUR 2.7 billion in 2007, before falling by 9.8 % in 2008 and by another 39.7 % in 2009 (see Figure 4). This shows how hard the global financial and economic crisis hit these high-value imports. There was a modest recovery in 2010, but a further decline in the period 2011–2014 but again a moderate increase in 2015 and 2016. However, in 2017 a decrease of 30.8 % was registered and the EU-28’s imports from these countries totalled EUR 1 100.4 billion.
Table 6 and Figure 3 show that a range of 70 % to 83 % of the EU-28’s tropical wood imports (in value terms) came from the 15 FLEGT-VPA countries during the 2000–2017 period. The main exporters in 2017 were Cameroon (29.5 % of the total), followed by Malaysia (21.1 %) and Indonesia (17.9 %).
Figures 5, 6 and 7 show the wood products imported to the EU-28 from China, the FLEGT countries and from the rest of the world (i.e. countries other than China, FLEGT countries and other tropical countries that are members of ITTO, the International Tropical Timber Organisation) for the period 2000-2016. The most important wood products imported from China are wooden furniture (Chapter 94 of the Combined Nomenclature) and other wood products (Chapter 44), as shown in Figure 5. Wooden flooring is a trade code only created in 2007 and Figure 5 shows that the EU-28 is buying quite a lot of it from China. For FLEGT countries, wooden furniture is the most important export to the EU-28, followed by sawnwood (see Figure 6), which however declined strongly in 2008-2009 and has only recently started to recover. Figure 7 shows that the EU-28's main imports from the rest of the world are sawnwood and fuel wood. Purchases of the latter increased dramatically since 2007, supplementing the increasing domestic production of fuel wood as a renewable source of energy. Decking and moulding imports from both China and the FLEGT countries are in a slow decline, as alternative non-wood products are becoming available, for example wood-plastic composite materials that resist decay from weathering.
Source data for tables and graphs
Eurostat, the Timber Committee of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Forestry Section of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) collect and collate statistics on the production and trade of wood through their Joint Forest Sector Questionnaire. Each partner collects data from a different part of the world; Eurostat is responsible for the data collection exercise pertaining to the EU Member States and EFTA countries.
Eurostat produces annual data on forestry using two questionnaires:
- The Joint Forest Sector Questionnaire (JFSQ) on production and trade in wood and wood products;
- European Forest Accounts (EFA), forming part of an environmental satellite accounts initiative that started in the late 1990s.
The JFSQ provides data for supply balances of timber used for wood products and for energy, and for estimating the carbon contained in harvested wood products.)
A broad array of EU policies and initiatives has a bearing on forests. For several decades, environmental forest functions have attracted increasing attention — for example, in relation to the protection of biodiversity and, more recently, in the context of climate change impacts and energy policies. Apart from the traditional production of wood and other forest-based products, forests are increasingly valued for their environmental role and as a public amenity. The EU promotes sustainable forest management, aiming to
- create and preserve jobs and otherwise contribute to rural livelihoods;
- protect the environment by preserving the soil, minimising erosion, purifying water, protecting aquifers, improving air quality, absorbing carbon, mitigating climate change, and preserving biodiversity;
- monitor the state of forests to meet environmental agreements;
- improve the competitiveness of forest-based industries in the internal market;
- promote the use of wood and other forest products as environmentally friendly products;
- reduce poverty in developing countries by furthering forest law enforcement, fair trade conditions and halting deforestation and illegal logging.
The European Community and its Member States have been members of the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA) since 1994. A new ITTA was concluded in 2006 and signed by the European Community, see 2007/648/EC: Council Decision of 26 September 2007. Annex 1 is a list of ITTA's members that produce tropical wood, comprising both FLEGT and non-FLEGT countries. Annex 2 is a list of ITTA's members that are consumers of tropical wood. All EU-28 Member States are presently members of ITTA. Article 27 on statistics, studies and information states:
- 1. The Council shall authorize the Executive Director to establish and maintain close relationships with relevant intergovernmental, governmental and non-governmental organizations in order to help ensure the availability of recent and reliable data and information, including on production and trade in tropical timber, trends and data discrepancies, as well as relevant information on non-tropical timber and on the management of timber producing forests. As deemed necessary for the operation of this Agreement, the Organization, in cooperation with such organizations, shall compile, collate, analyse and publish such information.
- 2. The Organization shall contribute to efforts to standardize and harmonize international reporting on forest-related matters, avoiding overlapping and duplication in data collection from different organizations.
The European Commission presented a new EU forest strategy (COM(2013) 659) for forests and the forest-based sector in 2013, in response to the increasing demands put on forests and to significant societal and political changes that have affected forests over the last 15 years. The strategy is a framework for forest-related measures and is used to coordinate EU initiatives with the forest policies of the Member States. In March 2010, the European Commission adopted a Green paper on forest protection and information in the EU: preparing forests for climate change (COM(2010) 66 final). The paper aimed to stimulate debate concerning the way climate change modifies the terms of forest management and protection, and how EU policy should develop as a consequence.
Forestry, along with farming, remains crucial for land use and the management of natural resources in the EU’s rural areas, and as a basis for economic diversification in rural communities. Rural development policy is part of the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP) which has been the main instrument for implementing forestry measures in recent years. In this context, it is estimated that spending on forest-related measures — through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development — amounted to EUR 9–10 billion during the period 2007–13.
- Forestry (t_for), see:
- Economic accounts for forestry and logging - values at current prices (tag00058)
- Roundwood production (tag00072)
- Total sawnwood production (tag00073)
- Total paper and paperboard production (tag00074)
- Forest increment and fellings (tsdnr520)
- Forestry (for), see:
- Removals, production and trade (for_rpt)
- Roundwood removals (for_rptr)
- Roundwood production and trade (for_rptt)
- Production and trade in primary products (for_rptp)
- Trade in secondary processed products (for_rpts)
- Economics and Employment (for_eaf)
- Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting for Forests (for_ieeaf)
- Historical Economic Accounts for Forestry (Series end in 2005) (for_eafh)
- Sustainable forest management (for_sfm)
- Assets (for_sfmas)
- Environmental aspects (for_sfmen)
- Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics — 2015 edition (Statistical book)
- Energy, transport and environment indicators — 2016 edition (Pocketbook)
- Environmental statistics and accounts in Europe — 2010 edition (Statistical book)
- Forestry in the EU and the world — 2011 edition (Statistical book)