ITTO presents on global timber situation in webinar for Ecuador timber industry

1 November 2023

A furniture shop in Beijing, China, a major exporter of wooden furniture. Photo: Tan Xifueng

1 November 2023: ITTO provided valuable insights into the supply and demand dynamics of tropical wood in international markets in a webinar organized by the Ecuadorian Association of Teak and Tropical Timber Producers (ASOTECA).

The aim of ASOTECA is to improve timber production efficiency in Ecuador, increase the planted-forest estate, promote research and development on sustainable forest management, and promote domestic and international consumption of tropical timber from forest plantations.

The ITTO presentation, made by statistician Jean-Christophe Claudon in late October, provided Ecuadorian timber-industry stakeholders with an in-depth perspective on the status of global tropical timber supply and demand. Among the key points made by Mr Claudon in his presentation were the following:

  • About 50% of global wood production is consumed for energy and the other 50% is used for industrial purposes. This allocation varies widely between countries, with developing countries in the tropics tending to use more of their wood production for energy.
  • The largest consumers of tropical timber are tropical countries themselves (predominantly for energy).
  • The Asia-Pacific region relies to a significant degree on the rest of the world to meet its timber demand. Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean are more self-sufficient.
  • Globally, the major producers of industrial roundwood are the European Union, the United States of America and the Russian Federation, which, combined, produce half the planet’s industrial roundwood; China is also a big producer.
  • The European Union and the United States are the major importer of wood products, together accounting for 52% of the primary wood products in roundwood equivalent, although most of this trade is either among European Union countries or from Canada to the United States. China is the third-largest importer of primary wood products and the world’s biggest importer of tropical primary wood products, accounting for 42% of the world total.
  • Economic development and housing are the major factors influencing demand for industrial wood products.
  • In Japan, 80% of wood demand is linked to construction. Minimal economic growth, however, has meant a decline in housing construction in Japan and also in demand for tropical timber. Japan was the biggest importer of tropical logs in the 1990s, but its imports of this product has declined by 99% over the last 30 years.
  • Demand for timber in the United States is also closely linked to housing. The housing market there dived during the 2008–2009 global financial crisis, accompanied by an immediate dive in sawnwood imports.
  • The recent slowing of the Chinese economy has been driving down demand for tropical timber. China’s tropical log imports declined by 50% between 2014 and 2022.
  • In contrast, exports of wooden furniture have increased eight hundred times in China since 1990 and by a factor of 18 in Viet Nam between 2010 and 2022, driving up timber consumption in those two countries.
  • It is expected that demand for industrial roundwood will continue growing strongly over the next three decades and could reach 2.8 billion m3 in 2050 (up from approximately 2 billion m3 in 2022). Demand for wood energy is expected to decline, however.
  • China is expected to remain dependent on the rest of the world to meet its wood demand, with the Northern Hemisphere playing a significant role in its timber supply.

Further information on the global timber situation is available at ITTO's Biennial Review and Assessment of the World Timber Situation 2021–2022. The Review analyses the production, trade and prices of primary wood products (industrial roundwood, sawnwood, veneer and plywood); trade and prices for secondary processed wood products; major traded tropical wood species; and directions of trade for primary tropical wood products. Data from the Review are included in ITTO’s online statistical database, spanning 1990–2022, a formidable tool for analyzing the evolution of, and long-term trends in, the trade of tropical timber and primary tropical timber products, as well as important shifts in timber production and further processing.

Download ITTO’s presentation below.