Markets for European Oak are facing increased pressure on price and availability. This was the key message at the European Oak Conference held in London last week.

The event – organised by the Timber Trade Federation and the European Organization of the Sawmill Industry – featured high-profile speakers and expert panellists from top supplying countries such as Croatia, France, Poland and Ukraine. More than 100 people attended the Conference, raising questions and engaging in the debate.

The speakers agreed that a combination of increased demand and market restrictions have been affecting oak wood prices over the past few years. Significantly, as highlighted by the EOS Secretary General Silvia Melegari, exports of logs from the EU to China have soared by 181% in the last ten years. This growing demand is having major impacts on European Oak producers, particularly France.

The availability of European Oak is also affected by log bans in supplying countries such as Croatia and Ukraine due to the impact of pests (Croatia) or governmental measures to improve domestic Industry (Ukraine). This shortage of raw materials is causing several sawmills to keep production low, preventing the sector from achieving its full potential.

Melegari reminded the audience that “the concerns of the hardwood sawmill sectors have been voiced in several occasions” and that “both the EU Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee have invited Member States to ensure that wood supply from the region's forests is sufficient to satisfy, on a sustainable basis, local industries' needs and society's needs”.

The conference also featured a panel discussion in which attendees addressed some key issues and debated them with the speakers. The main topics included trade post-Brexit; oak wood price and availability; transport bans; pest control, and international cooperation in the sector.

“For its aesthetic and technical qualities, oak remains a prime product for UK timber importers and traders,” said TTF Managing Director David Hopkins. “However, material shortage and international trade dynamics are likely to drive prices higher in the near future. This may open the market for alternative hardwood species.

“The TTF - in collaboration with European partner organisations - will be monitoring market trends as well as providing assistance and guidance to members and stakeholders.”