European softwood production declined by 6.4% in 2023 to 80,894,000m3 (2022: 86,518,000m3) with a further slight drop expected in 2024, according to the European Organisation of the Sawmilling Industry (EOS).

The figures were presented at the EOS summer General Assembly in Helsinki on June 12-13.

The forecast for 2024 is 79,459.000m3, which if accurate will be the lowest production output for EOS countries for about nine years. But the EOS says there is hope in the industry that the market will bottom out this year.

Production shrunk by 5-10% across EOS member countries in 2023, with the decline in turnover much more sizable. Overseas the situation was equally difficult with subdued exports across the board with the exception of the US.

Increasing sawnwood deliveries to the US have helped some European sawmills navigate this challenging environment.

“Many countries have emphasized a disconnect between subdued sawnwood prices and high raw material prices,” said the EOS. “The supply of logs at affordable prices will be an issue which will dominate the markets in coming years.”

Sawmill capacity increases were significant over the last couple of years and EOS projections for 2024 indicate that this trend has now stopped.

With a projected production of 22.9 million m3 in 2023 (-5.6% vs 2022) Germany remains the largest sawn softwood producer within the EOS community. Sweden ranks second with about 17.8 million m3 in 2023 (-5.7% vs 2022). 

Then follows Finland with a production 10.4 million m3, ahead of Austria with 9.1 million m3 (-9.7% vs 2022). France remains the fifth largest producer with 7 million m3 (-2.2% vs 2022).

Sawn softwood consumption has also declined after peaking in the 2021 Covid era year. Consumption was 53,449,000m3 in 2023 down from 58,449,000m3 in 2022 – an 8.6% decrease. The projected figure for 2024 is 53,351,000m3. Sawn softwood demand has over the last couple of year now declined by over 20%, “an unusual swing”, according to EOS.

“Consumption of sawnwood in Europe fell remarkably, which is mainly due to ongoing weakness in the construction sector,” it said.

“While inflation has been going down, it has so far remained too high and interest rates are still elevated, which is having a bad effect on construction markets.”