Pandemic reverses gain in EU27+UK imports from African VPA partners
Although there was a sharp decline in EU27+UK wood product imports from Cameroon in 2020, trade with the leading African supply country was not noticeably more volatile than in previous years (Chart 14). In the 12 months to October last year, EU27+UK imports from Cameroon were US$256 million, down from US$306 million in the previous 12-month period. Most EU27+UK trade with Cameroon comprises sawnwood destined for Belgium. The last time imports from Cameroon were at this low level was in 2017 when shipments via Douala port were severely affected by dockyard workers strikes, delays in VAT reimbursements and other red tape. EU27+UK imports from the Republic of Congo (RoC) were rising consistently throughout 2018 and 2019 but slowed significantly in 2020. Rolling 12-month imports increased from US$78 million in January 2018 to a peak of US$107 million in January 2020 before sliding back to US$83 million in October 2020. This trend is driven mainly by Belgian imports of logs and sawnwood and French imports of veneers from the RoC.
The gains made in EU27+UK imports from Ghana in 2018 and 2019, mostly of sawnwood and veneer, were lost in 2020. The EU27+UK 12-month rolling total import from Ghana increased from US$32 million in March 2018 to US$35 million in December 2019 but then slowed to US$29 million in October last year. Imports from Ghana were rising into Germany, Belgium and the UK in 2019 but declined into all three countries in 2020. Imports from Ghana into Italy were also sliding in 2020, continuing a longer-term downward trend that started in 2018.
EU27+UK imports from Central African Republic (CAR), recovered from an annualised low of US$8 million in November 2017 to US$13 million in October 2018, where there remained level for the next three quarters. However, between the middle of 2019 and October 2020, annualised imports fell back again to US$8 million. EU27+UK imports of from CAR now consist almost exclusively of logs, mainly for France, Portugal and Belgium. Imports of sawnwood, previously destined mainly for Belgium, have fallen to negligible levels.
EU27+UK imports from Liberia, while still low, were rising quite rapidly in the last quarter of 2019 and first quarter of 2020, the annualised value increasing from US$2.9 million in September 2019 to US$4.0 million in March 2020. However, imports from Liberia were negligible in the second and third quarters of 2020 and the annualised value had fallen to only US$2 million by October 2020.