14 December 2016

Africa: Wood Production Sees Growth Driven By Housing and Green Energy Markets

press release

Rome — FAO data point at strong potential of forest sector in emerging bioeconomies

Global production of all major wood products grew for the sixth consecutive year in 2015, while trade in wood products decreased slightly, according to new data published by FAO today. The increase was mainly boosted by the continuous economic growth in Asia, a recovering housing market in North America and scaling up of the bioenergy targets.

In 2015, growth in the production volume of wood products ranged from between one to eight percent, according to the FAO data unveiled today.

At the same time, global trade value in primary wood and paper products shrank slightly from $267 billion in 2014 to $236 billion in 2015 due to lower prices for wood products. Production of forest products has been healthiest in Asia-Pacific and North America due to a growing housing market.

Surge in pellet production driven by growing demand for bioenergy

Growing demand for bioenergy, driven by renewable energy targets and policies in Europe, prompted an explosion in wood pellet production with a ten-fold increase in production in the last decade.

In 2015, global production of pellets soared to 28 million tonnes. This represents an 8 percent increase from the previous year's level of 26 million tonnes and a 47 percent increase from the 19 million tonnes produced in 2012.

The Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), which produced and exported 3 million tonnes of pellets in 2015, overtook Germany and Canada and together emerged as the second largest producer and exporter of pellets after the US. The Baltic states now account for 11 percent of production and 17 percent of exports globally in 2015. Canada is now the third biggest pellets exporter and the fourth biggest producer after Germany.

The global markets of pellets were dominated by Europe and North America, with the US and Canada accounting for over one-third of global pellet production, and the UK, Denmark and Italy accounting for some 80 percent of global pellet imports (UK alone 52 percent).

Fast growth in OSB wood panels

For the first time, FAO has included global figures on Oriented Strand Board (OSB) in its statistical database, reflecting a growth of 7 percent in production and trade in 2015 from the previous year. This growth is twice as fast as in the sector of traditional wood panels and sawnwood.

OSB is a type of wood panel commonly used in construction. It is a relatively new product outside of North America where production took off in the 1990s and now growing fast in Europe (including the Russian Federation), while being poised to conquer Asian markets, in particular, China and Malaysia.

"Our data registers a healthy growth in the global production of wood products and a rapid growth in production and trade of relatively new products such as OSB wood panels and pellets, indicating that the forest industry is adapting to changes and has huge potential to become a key player in emerging bioeconomies. Increased use of modern wood-based building materials and energy assortments can contribute to lower net carbon dioxide emissions," said Mats Nordberg, FAO Senior Forestry Officer.

"FAO's database on wood production provides a crucial tool in the context of measuring progress towards targets set out in the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, since it can help countries enable sustainable forest management and scale up forestry's greenhouse gas mitigation potential", he added.

Electronic media driving down demand for graphic paper

Production of graphic paper for publishing and writing, fell 2.3 percent or by 3 million tonnes in just one year, reaching its lowest level since 1999. This decrease reflects a widespread global shift towards electronic media and mobile technology. This was particularly the case in North America and Europe, which had already shown a gradual decline in production and demand in previous years, but now other parts of the world are manifesting the same trend.

Recovered paper accounts for more than half (55 percent) or 225 million tonnes of all fibre used for paper production. This marks a four percent increase since 2013, a 54 percent increase since 2000, and a 337 percent increase since 1980.

Trade in pulp and recovered paper jumped by three percent in 2015 also due to production at new export-oriented pulp mills in Brazil and Uruguay recently coming on stream.

Over 100 years of data on wood production

The FAO Yearbook has been published every year since 1947. Wood products statistics from 1961 onwards are also now available in a new and more user-friendly format in the FAOSTAT database. In addition, for the very first time, data on wood production and trade in Europe and North America, dating all the way back to 1913, are now also available online.

FAO's forest products statistics present figures on the production and trade of forest products, covering 55 product categories, 21 product groups and 245 countries and territories.

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