FEP to Explore Sustainable Alternatives to Oak, Calls on EU Authorities to Limit Raw Material Exports

The European parquet market progressed significantly in 2021. The European consumption of parquet rose by 6.2 percent compared to 2020, was higher than in 2019, before the pandemic, and even reached a level not seen for 10 years. The production in European Federation of the Parquet Industry (FEP) countries also rose, by almost 7 percent, in 2021 and exceeded the 82 million m2 threshold. A level not seen since the start of the financial crisis.

The European parquet markets already show decreases for the first part of 2022, however, reflecting the difficulty to fill in orders. This phenomenon is reported by most of the FEP members who are facing issues of wood supplies. Issues which are limiting the positive evolution of the parquet industry since the onset of the pandemic, echoing high demand for wood and supply chain disruptions, and which are now reinforced by the impacts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“As a matter of fact, the crisis, started with the Russian war in Ukraine, upset the European and global balances. All this came on top of two years of pandemic when we all tried to face, in the best possible way, a situation that was uncertain and unpredictable. The problems that risk to open a wide front of revision in the production processes in all companies which manufacture wood floors, involve all the materials that are used and especially birch multilayer (as its raw material mostly comes from Russia) and the oak lumber of which Ukraine is a strong exporter, covering about 30 percent of the total of lamellas for wood floors. As a whole, the situation is surely difficult for all wood species and raw materials,” said FEP chairman, Lorenzo Onofri, in his FEP 46th General Assembly opening speech.

”The present expectations lead us to say that we’ll have some drastic changes for sure, in the type of products manufactured by our factories. We can say that the time for innovation, the change of model, the research of new materials and the creation of new tendencies is coming. Hence, we must consider this period as an opportunity to modify what was a consolidated situation, though unusual, when there was, practically, a single product, which was and still is, the oak wood floor. The diversification of the usable raw materials is a necessity, as well as an opportunity to create new products. Let’s think about how much oak is dyed or stained with colours that could easily be obtained from wood species that already are that colour,” Onofri added.

“An approach of this kind forces us to reconsider the whole production chain of raw materials and then it obliges us to a company’s internal re-organization of selections, stocks and supply chain. All these changes are challenging, expensive and difficult to make in the short period, but they are increasingly necessary in the long term, considering the experience we are having,” Onofri continued.

Besides industry’s own efforts to develop a longer-term perspective to explore sustainable substitutes and alternatives to oak, FEP chairman also considers that the moment has come for Europe to change pace and mind-set.

“ …I believe the time has come that Europe has the courage to establish what is more convenient for the good of Europe, of its citizens and companies as well as the activities to support them in the best possible way,” said Onofri. “For this reason, we strongly ask to be heard on a topic that is absolutely vital, that is the limitation to the exports of raw materials, as we risk to leave the European companies without work and to promote other companies that, instead, are unscrupulous to put in place policies only in their favour, violating any rules of transparency on competition, commercial treaty, laws for the protection of the environment or for the rights and safety of workers.”

The European parquet industry is asking the EU authorities for a tool, such as a quota, to keep oak logs within Europe as well as for temporary safeguarding, mitigation, and support measures to the sector, and for coherent policies allowing higher mobilization of existing European wood resources as long as principles of Sustainable Forest Management are applied.

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