A dynamic International Hardwood Conference (IHC) did not avoid the difficult issues. It confronted the challenges facing the sector in an increasingly globalised marketplace, subject to ever stricter environmental and legality regulation and just emerging from recession.
But the international speaker line-up also addressed the 100 delegates, drawn from 19 countries, on hardwood’s positives. Notably they focused on the market potential of this versatile, renewable resource given growing realisation of the need to move to a greener global economy.
The 16-18 September event, held in Copenhagen’s historic Moltke’s Palace, had added interest as the first IHC co-organised by the European Organization of the Sawmill Industry (EOS) and the European Timber Trade Federation (ETTF), with the Danish Sawmill Association (DSA) and Timber Trade Federation as national hosts. This, said speakers, signalled a new pan-sector willingness to collaborate on market development.
After DSA President Martin Nyrop-Larsen opened proceedings, EOS and ETTF Presidents Sampsa Auvinen and Andreas von Möller delivered frank assessments of the commercial climate. Market conditions were improving, they said, but key European end-user sectors had not yet returned to pre-economic crisis levels.
Rupert Oliver of Forest Industries Intelligence confirmed global hardwood trade had recovered to US$38 billion last year. But the international downturn had resulted in a shift, with the market now driven by China, rather than the EU.
Jean-François Guilbert of French Timber focused on one outcome of this; China’s rising consumption of hardwood logs, which had prompted calls for EU export restrictions. At the same time, however, China was also importing more processed hardwood.
Mike Snow, Executive Director of the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), said his industry still saw significant ‘upside’ in China, with domestic consumption set to fire further hardwood sales growth.
Environmental issues were also naturally a thread running through various presentations. Ad Wesselink, of Netherlands hardwood specialist Wijma, highlighted the need to promote certified timber from Africa, while Armand Stockmans, of Belgian-based Somex, examined the benefits and burdens of EU Timber Regulation compliance.
One area covered by Sheam Satkuru-Granzella, of the Malaysian Timber
Council, was her country’s continuing focus on concluding a Voluntary
Partnership Agreement under the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and
Trade programme (FLEGT), and Hans Stout, of IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative, explained how the multi-stakeholder Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition aimed to boost certified tropical timber’s EU market share.
In addition the audience heard from Rupert Oliver about the new EU-funded, ITTO-backed Independent Market Monitoring project, which will gauge the EU market outlook for timber from FLEGT VPA suppliers.
Hardwood’s construction prospects were another core IHC theme. Matti Kuittinen of Aalto University said timber building could be a bridge from fossil fuel to bio-based economies, while fellow architect Peter Wilson of Edinburgh Napier University’s Wood Studio saw it as the low carbon solution for dense urban development. European Director David Venables also described AHEC’s promotion of engineered US hardwood for structural applications.
In a different vein, José Estima Reis of BSL looked at potential for plantation growth in Spain and Portugal, while Knud Erik Hansen, of Copenhagen’s Carl Hansen & Son, related how this long-established hardwood furniture maker’s had reinvented itself for global success.
Concluding Sampsa Auvinen said cooperation between the EOS and ETTF had contributed to a highly successful IHC and would “continue to bring concrete results”.
Andreas von Möller confirmed the two would work together to achieve a similarly impactful event in 2017.
For more information, please contact:
- ETTF, Mr André de Boer : +31 653 107 268
- EOS, Mrs Silvia Melegari: +32 492 697 998