Gabon Sees Huge Opportunity for Plywood Manufacturing

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Government of Gabonese announced a complete ban on exports of round logs on 6thNovember, 2009 starting from the beginning of 2010. This decision was part of the overall policy for development and modernization of the wood industry to sustain and strengthen its role in the national economy.

In period before the ban on exports of round logs, the peak production of logs from Gabon forest was 3.2 to 3.4 million cbm which is estimated to be reduced to 1.4 million cbm in year 2015, given the constraints in processing capacity. Although the production of logs from Gabon forest reduced as a result of ban on exports of round logs, the total processed timber products (sawn timber, plywood and veneer) in Gabon witnessed an increase of 20% from 600,000 cbm in 2007 to 720,000 cbm in 2014 and currently estimated to be around 900,000 cbm.

In terms of utilization of logs, distribution is skewed towards saw mills which utilises 60%. Around 25% is utilised in veneer production and a small proportion of 8% is utilised for production of plywood. Gabon is the largest exporter of plywood of this sub-region, but this production of around 80,000 cbm (with 75% exports) remains insignificant at the global level. Export volumes remain at levels equivalent to those before the ban on log exports, which suggests that the decision to ban the export of logs would have no significant impact on increasing the production and export of plywood in Gabon.

Okoumé Plywood is a product of very high quality and it is a speciality of Gabon. Today the volumes of Okoumé logs for production of plywood are limited by Sustainable Forest Management, which consists of restricted wood harvesting, allows the forest to regenerate naturally. It also ensures the continuity of Okoumé being available for tomorrow. Nevertheless, the ban on export of logs, has kept the good qualities and volumes for plywood plants located in Gabon. Although, the market of Okoumé Plywood has reduced from 800,000 cbm per year to about 300,000 cbm per year in the last forty years, but it remains a very attractive market because of its price (USD 700-900 per cbm) and which explains high proportions of exports of Okoumé plywood to Europe.

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