Some producers in Gabon are logging only okoume and some selected premium red species, notably sapele and sipo. This is in response to the change in China’s buying patterns of logs, since interest in non-premium timbers has disappeared. This is also the case with exports from Congo Brazzaville. Prices have held so far, though exporters to Europe note with concern the oversupply of softwood sawn lumber in European markets, which has caused some Scandinavian shippers to scale down production. Although not directly competing with premium grade tropical hardwoods, this slow down indicates a dampening of market sentiment in the timber industry.
Winter in Europe normally brings a period of slower activity in the building and construction sector, though it is reported that house building in France and the Netherlands has improved. UK government also has signaled the need for a very substantial increase in house building, though it is likely to be considerable time before this translates into actual housing starts.
West African producers also note the change in Far East timber markets, which have slowed in recent weeks. Although there have not been dramatic decreases in prices, there is some weakness, especially in the plywood situation. This does not impact too heavily on West Africa where plywood exports are relatively small, but could well prompt tighter competition with Malaysia and Papua New Guinea for log sales to China. West African producers are having to settle into the log quota systems that are now being more fully implemented and the full effects of this restriction on log exports have yet to be seen.