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European wood chip imports up in 2023

  • Spanish Market: Biomass
  • 28/05/24

European hardwood wood chip imports increased by 19pc in 2023 compared to the 2019-21 average, owing largely to an increase in Nordic imports.

Overall European imports of hardwood chips rose to 4.4mn t in 2023, customs data for products under the 440122 code for HS classification — which exclude coniferous (or softwood) chips — show (see chart). Wood chips under this category are thought to be mainly delivered to the bioenergy sector, although deliveries to other competing sectors may also be included.

Sweden and Denmark significantly increased imports in 2023 compared with 2019-21 averages, largely owing to tightening local supply, as harvesting restrictions in the Nordics limited the volume of raw material available. In addition, Swedish suppliers of wood waste only fulfilled around 30pc of their term contracts with end users, which also supported the latter's demand and consumption of wood chips throughout last year.

Swedish forest companies with lands in neighbouring countries favoured higher imports from these regions, such as Latvia and Estonia, to keep costs down.

Stronger demand for bioenergy chips combined with weaker demand by competing sectors — such as pulp and paper, cardboard and construction — resulted in the price for bioenergy chips unusually rising to a premium to higher quality wood chips, such as pulp wood chips.

Denmark increased imports from Brazil in 2023, likely as utilities with term contracts with Brazilian suppliers ramped up receipts following the sanctions on Russian supply. The rising Brazilian imports to Denmark, and Europe overall, is expected to be sustained throughout 2024, as end users continue to seek overseas supply to diversify sourcing from outside of Europe.

Denmark also imported more from Germany, the UK and Latvia, customs data show.

Swedish and Danish imports more than offset a drop in imports by other key importing regions. Imports by Poland, which was the third largest European importer in 2019, saw a sharp drop by 156,000t to 28,000t in 2023. This was largely owing to slower receipts from Ukraine and Belarus following the start of the war in Ukraine in 2022, which saw Poland rely more heavily on local supply.

Issues with transport logistics also affected imports from Lithuania, and overall trade flows between the Baltic Sea basin and central Europe.

Finland's imports also dropped in 2023 compared with the 2019-21 average, mainly due to a sharp drop in Russian receipts. Most of the wood chips imported by Finland before 2022 were thought to go to other competing sectors than bioenergy. But since the start-up of the Naistenlahti 3 combined heat and power (CHP) woodchip-fired power plant in 2023, Finnish demand for imported bioenergy chips has likely increased. Finland also relied more heavily on local supply in 2023, as well as importing more from Latvia and Estonia, customs data show.

Going forward, consumption in the Baltic Sea basin is expected to remain robust by bioenergy and other sectors, supported by new capacity that has come on line in recent years or is expected to start up in the near future.

Key European hardwood chip importers 000,000t

Danish imports 000t

Swedish imports 000t

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15/07/24

Japan’s Erex cuts biomass-fired power output in June

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10/07/24
10/07/24

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03/07/24
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