The value of direct US hardwood lumber exports to the MENA region has reached USD 13.9 million or 19,832 cu. metres from January to April this year, according to official trade data released by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), the leading international trade association for the American hardwood industry. The growth is highly evident in the numbers recorded across leading regional markets such as the UAE, which is showing renewed and steadily increasing interest, with the import value hitting USD 2.5 million during the first four months of the year. The recorded export to the Emirates during the specified period has also doubled - from USD 1.17 million last year to the aforementioned level this year, thereby distinguishing the UAE as the top importer in the GCC region.
Usage of US hardwood lumber in the MENA region has been increasing significantly in recent years, with red oak emerging as the most in-demand among all species in the Middle East, recording a total export volume of 4,688 cu. metres. In the North Africa region, red oak has also seen high demand, but demand for white oak has been increasing and shipments reached over 1,000 cu. metres in the first four months of this year. Optimistic of the growth potential in American hardwood exports to majority of the regional countries, AHEC is focusing heavily on all aspects of the UAE’s interiors sector and looking at the furniture, flooring, kitchen cabinets, doors and internal joinery, which have all emerged as strong drivers of the regional wood processing business.
“Despite the influence of the global economic recession on export volumes to some leading regional markets, we are, once again, seeing stable growth since the beginning of the year, which indicates that local customers are now becoming more active again,” said Roderick Wiles, AHEC Director for Africa, Middle East, India and Oceania. “In line with this, we are confident that prospects will improve greatly in 2010, particularly in the UAE, given its enviable location and infrastructure, which make it an excellent wood processing and re-export hub to surrounding Middle East countries and beyond. We are continuously investing in building awareness on the benefits of American hardwoods in the interiors and furniture industry across the emirates, as part of our efforts to sufficiently address the needs of local customers, especially now as the market approaches a recovery phase.”
In addition to the UAE, other top importers of US hardwoods in the Middle East region from January to April 2010 include KSA, which ordered products with a total value of almost USD 1.9 million. The Kingdom remains a very important market for hardwoods due to its young and fast-growing population, a factor that can further fuel the domestic construction sector in the foreseeable future. Driven by its massive furniture, interiors and exporting industries, Egypt accounts for the bulk of US hardwoods shipments to the North Africa region, with more than USD 3.1 million in total exports delivered to the country during the same period. In its bid to further increase the export volumes of US wood products to the MENA region, AHEC has outlined a plan to conduct intensive workshops on species and lumber grading within these high growth potential markets later on this year.
“The stirring of the economic situation across the MENA region is having significant effects on the growth of US hardwoods, and we are taking proactive steps to develop customers’ confidence in US hardwood lumber and further leverage the excellent prospects in the region. We are confident that our increased activities within the region will build awareness of the advantages of using American hardwoods, not only in terms of quality but also amidst the widespread demand for proof of sustainability. Over the coming years, we aim to expand our activities in the region with increased emphasis on direct interaction with wood traders, manufacturers and specifiers,” concluded Wiles.
Identifying the prospects within other emerging US hardwood markets, AHEC is looking to extend its awareness drive to Lebanon, which registered USD 1.17 million in total imports from January to April 2010; and Jordan, where USD 639,000 worth of American hardwood lumber were delivered during the same time span. Furthermore, Qatar, whose total value of US hardwood purchased reached USD 701,000, according to the same statistics, is also being eyed by the Council as a high-potential market, in addition to Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain where exports totaled USD 363,000, USD 271,000, and USD 38,000 respectively.