The timber market in the first quarter of 2009 was in retreat across the Continent, according to delegates at the latest assembly of the European Timber Trade Association (FEBO). But they predicted that restocking would now start to pick up and were hopeful that business would stabilise through the rest of the year.

The representatives from national timber trade associations at the FEBO meeting in Cologne all reported a tough first three months. The Swiss saw a “double digit” sales fall, and the French industry was down 15%. UK and Finnish delegates also said their markets continued to shrink.

The Austrian and German delegates said that sales of timber and wood products into interior design and the repair and renovation markets were satisfactory, but new build in both countries was still on the decline.

On the more positive side, Andreas Moller of the European Association of Softwood Importers (UCBR) said that customers had now reached the limits of destocking and would now start to buy again. Other delegates agreed and said, with indications the market had plateaued, that they were more optimistic about prospects.

Delegates in Cologne also voiced concerns about proposed tougher EU regulations to crack down on illegal timber entering the European market. Any new rules, they said, needed to be practical and not overly bureaucratic. FEBO said it would continue to offer its guidance and advice on the subject to the European council.