Wood imports to the UAE have grown 100 per cent over the past two years and the demand for wood products has resulted in contracts worth more than $150 million (Dh550.8m) being sealed during the Dubai Woodshow.
The growth in the industry has come as more contractors are moving away from traditional concrete and tile and using wood products for flooring, construction work and interiors.
The largest deals signed at the expo went to Canadian exhibitor SPF Precut Lumber, which secured contracts amounting to $25m, with a single agreement worth $20m to deliver Canadian SPF, S4S lumber and cut-to-size pallet-stock to Europe and the Middle-East.
“We are pushing ahead with our plans to ship 10,000 to 12,000 cubic metres of wood every month to leverage the booming GCC construction industry,” said Muhammad Amir, president, SPF Precut Lumber. He added the company hopes to achieve sales worth $15m in the next 12 months.
Along with the increased preference for wood in construction projects in the UAE, the re-export of wood from the UAE has grown by 60 per cent since 2006 and is set to go up by another 30 per cent in 2008, according to Dawood Al Shezawi, managing director at Strategic Marketing and Exhibitions, which organised the annual Dubai Woodshow expo.
“The wood and wood products sector has largely benefited from the tremendous growth of the regional property market. With Dh150bn worth of projects still in the pipeline, there is remarkable scope for expansion of the wood industry,” said Al Shezawi.
The majority of wood imports are timber and plywood, however, wood flooring has also seen a dramatic increase. According to statistics released by Dubai Customs, in 2005, flooring imports alone registered an increase of 1,345 per cent. As part of the flooring boom, UAE-based manufacturer Alomi Real Wood Flooring, managed to secure a $750,000 contract on the first day of the trade show.
Albert Douglas, CEO of Alomi Real Wood Flooring, recently told Emirates Business he struggled to reach his $100,000 target during the first year after the company was set up in 2004. However, his business transactions since then have crossed the $30m mark. “Our business grew by more than 100 per cent during the past 11 months and we are expecting the boom to continue,” said Douglas.
Last year at Dubai Woodshow, the UK-based wood flooring manufacturer won contracts totalling $3.2m for several high-value projects throughout the region. It included 25,000 square metres of English natural solid oak worth $1.2m for a Saudi Arabian shopping mall. The company, which imports about 30 containers of black walnut wood to the UAE every week, recently made an even larger commitment to the country’s market.
Douglas said: “All along we used to manufacture overseas and import. But two months ago we set up a new production facility at Dubai Investment Park to speed up our operations.”
US leading exporter
The United States continues to be the number one wood exporter to the region.
Last year, American hardwood exports to the UAE topped nearly Dh25.7 million, with lumber constituting the bulk of trade. Wood supplies from the United States to the UAE alone have grown by 83 per cent over the past four years.
Other major suppliers include countries in Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Canada, Chile and China.
Rizwan Sajan, Chairman of Danube Building Materials, said demand for wood has been soaring despite a surge in prices.
“Prices of wood have gone up by 30 to 40 per cent over the past year and are expected to increase by another five to 10 per cent in 2008, mainly due to the weakening dollar and increasing freight charges. Yet there has been no slump in demand for wood. In fact we are trying to achieve a sales target of Dh1bn this year.”