Imports of tropical wood products into Belgium and the Netherlands were mirror images of each other in the second half of 2016, rising very rapidly into the former while declining in the latter.
Given that both countries are important centres for distribution of tropical wood to other parts of Europe, these trends are more likely associated with short-term logistical factors favouring transit via ports in Belgium over those in the Netherlands, than with changes in internal demand in the two countries.
In fact, underlying market conditions in each country appear to be reasonably good. There was robust growth in construction output in both the Netherlands and Belgium in 2016, and this trend continued into the first quarter of 2017.
The Belgian economy expanded 0.64% in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the quarter, the highest quarterly growth rate since 2011, driven by an uptick in private consumption. In the Netherlands, a buoyant labour market together with rising wages and house prices and upbeat consumer sentiment are fuelling household spending.
There is also optimism that the Dutch government’s decision to recognise MTCS as “sustainable” will boost prospects for Malaysian timber in the Netherlands in the next few years, particularly as both the government and the Netherlands Timber Trade Association share a commitment to ensure that at least 90% of tropical timber imports derive from sustainable sources by 2020.