The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has maintained its position as an important destination for American hardwoods with over USD 43.22 million worth of hardwood lumber and veneer imports entering the region during the first half of 2012, according to a statement issued by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), the leading international trade association for the American hardwood industry. Of this total, exports of American hardwood lumber reached a value of USD 31.10 million and a volume of 44,444 cubic metres, marking an increase of 20 percent and 13 percent respectively over the January to June period of 2011. In addition, direct shipments of US hardwood veneers to the MENA region during the period reached a total value of USD 12.12 million, rising by 14 percent in comparison to the same period last year.
“These statistics have been taken from the latest data released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and account for direct shipments to the MENA region. However, it is important to note that American hardwood veneers are shipped to the region from Europe and China while veneers are also produced in the region – notably in Turkey – from imported American hardwood logs. The USDA data released shows that US hardwood log exports to the MENA reached a value of USD 13.05 million and a volume of 20,514 cubic metres during the same period,” said Roderick Wiles, AHEC Director for Africa, Middle East, India and Oceania.
A closer look at the numbers reveals that 29 percent of the volume of American hardwood lumber shipped to the region during the six month period was accounted for by red oak (12,398 cubic metres), which actually fell by 14 percent from the same period in 2011. However, shipments of ash and white oak to the region picked up significantly from the first half of last year, rising by 50 percent to 9,369 cubic metres and by 29 percent to 6,032 cubic metres respectively. Further, exports of American walnut lumber to the region during the January to June period of this year were also strong and rose by 83 percent in volume to 3,614 cubic metres, as compared to the same period in 2011. In veneers, exports were dominated by red oak, with significant volumes of walnut, white oak and maple.
“The MENA region continues to show strong demand for American hardwoods and white oak in particular, which is currently in demand across the globe and widely preferred for its colour consistency, durability and strong physical properties, making it the perfect material for interior applications and furniture. Market reports indicate that the overall interior contracting and fit-out market in the GCC will increase by 87 percent in value this year, the highest increase since 2008, from USD 5.04 billion in 2011 to USD 9.4 billion. As such, we remain confident that through our ongoing education and outreach program, we can contribute towards an even greater demand for US hardwoods in the coming months and years,” added Wiles.
In value terms, the UAE remained a key destination in the MENA region and shipments increased healthily during the period, with US hardwood lumber exports rising by 13 percent in volume to 7,681 cubic metres and by 21 percent in value to USD 6.50 million. It is important to note, however, that as much as a third of the volume of American hardwood lumber shipped to the UAE is actually destined for other markets in the neighboring Gulf, across the Strait of Hormuz or down the East coast of Africa. Shipments to the UAE were dominated by ash, with significant volumes of red oak, white oak and walnut making up the remainder. Other leading destinations for American hardwood lumber in the region included Saudi Arabia (USD 3.494 million), Egypt (USD 2.679 million), Jordan (2.047 million), Lebanon (USD 1.629 million) and Qatar (USD 998,000).
“The increase in American hardwood lumber and veneer imports into the MENA region in the first six months of this year underlines the growing demand for US hardwoods. Significantly, governments across the region have recognized the need to drive sustainability and sound environmental practices within the construction and timber industries, which provides AHEC with the perfect opportunity to highlight the environmental credentials of American hardwoods. With the release of our ISO-compliant Life Cycle Assessment study on US hardwood lumber, we hope to elevate the environmental credentials of American hardwoods and further increase awareness in this high growth potential market,” concluded Wiles.
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The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) is the leading international trade association for the U.S. hardwood industry, representing the committed exporters among U.S. hardwood companies and all the major U.S. hardwood production trade associations. AHEC runs a worldwide programme to promote American hardwoods in over 50 export markets, concentrating on providing architects, specifiers, designers and end-users with technical information on the range of species, products and sources of supply. In addition, AHEC also produces a full range of technical publications. For more information, please visit: www.americanhardwood.org.