Sawn softwood production rose 2.62% to 72.3 million m3 among member countries of the European Organisation of the Sawmill Industry (EOS) in 2002.

Wood consumption grew by 1.68% to 56.9 million m3 compared to 2001, according to figures released at the EOS annual general meeting in Lahti, Finland. But a stabilisation or slight decline in the figures is predicted for this year.

The European hardwood sawmilling sector was confronted with major difficulties on the home and foreign markets leading to a 5.35% drop in output to 5.56 million m3.

During the past four years European hardwood production has now reduced by more than 1.3 million m3 – more than 20%. Consumption in 2002 fell by 2.7% to 7.68 million m3.

The EOS says the falling trend will continue this year, though at more moderate levels, and will probably not pick up again unless the hardwood consuming furniture and flooring sectors improve considerably.

A sluggish European construction market is not helping to grow use of wood but the relatively high consumption rates point toward an increased market share in the future.

Meanwhile, exports outside the EU have come under pressure due to the falling US dollar and the higher value of the euro. As a result, the EOS has appealed to European authorities and the European Central Bank to take “necessary measures” for safeguarding the competitiveness of its industries.