COVID-19: Timber export from Africa takes a hit, says report

Timber exports from Cameroon and Gabon to European countries suffer 

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Friday 03 April 2020
Uncertainty in the international timber market after African countries placed many restrictions was responsible for this decline Photo: Pixabay

Timber exports from several African countries declined in the wake of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a report by the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO), an intergovernmental organisation that promotes sustainable management of forests.

Restrictions in several African countries along with a partial closure of ports in European countries was responsible for this uncertainty, said the Tropical Timber Market Report released for March 16-31, 2020.

The species of trees from which timber was exported to European countries from Cameroon and Gabon — both major timber exporters — were especially hit.

Ports in southern European countries stopped arrivals of all imports, except essential goods and food, said the report.

“Producers say production rates have fallen especially for those species and specifications for the EU market,” the report said about Cameroon.

Stocks of timber popular in European Union countries, like sapelli, however, were increasing, it said, without specifying the reasons for this.

Similar developments were happening in Ghana.

The government in Ghana introduced measures to control the spread of the virus, including encouraging government officers to work from home and stopping non-essential work.

“The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) restricted berthing of vessels from high risk areas. The disruption has crippled economic activities and affected timber manufacturing and export operation,” the report stated.

Exchange rate volatility impacted exports as well, with importers waiting for markets to stabilise.

“Traders report that shippers in Brazil and Ghana have recently been offering higher girth logs which would normally stimulate imports,” the report said.

Importers also waited to see where freight rates were heading.

Availability of space had become an issue, leading to a rise in the rates, along with disruptions in loading and discharging, the report added.

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