Table of Contents

  • Wooden furniture industries make a substantial contribution to development in tropical countries, producing important economic benefits and playing a significant role in promoting economic growth. As wood-processing industries such as the wooden furniture sector develop, they create employment (which in turn expands the tax base in the country), generate a trained workforce, and contribute to the development of physical and institutional infrastructure. These industries also contribute to foreign exchange earnings and stimulate investment in a range of secondary support industries.

  • The study on which this book is based was commissioned and funded by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).

  • Unless otherwise specified, all references to dollars ($) are to United States dollars, and all references to tons are to metric tons. The term ‘billion’ denotes 1 thousand million.

  • The estimated apparent consumption of all furniture (at trade prices) in the United States of America reached $64.1 billion in 2001. About a third of that ($23 billion) consisted of domestic factory shipments. The American market for wooden furniture was valued at $22 billion.

  • When the joint ITTO–ITC Wooden Household Furniture: A Study of Major Markets was published in 1990, the globalization of the furniture business was in its infancy. Domestic production was clearly the dominant way of meeting consumer demand for furniture in most industrialized markets. Historically, furniture manufacturing remained surprisingly long and firmly in the hands of the industrialized nations, despite the fact that it is one of the most basic and labour-intensive manufacturing sectors. In more recent times, developing countries have by and large followed the past paths and phases of the more developed economies.

  • The global economic outlook deteriorated in 2002 as a result of severe short-term disturbances, waning consumer confidence and the slowdown in the major economies into near-recession levels. The fragile growth prospects did not materialize in the required strength during 2002, and the geo-political conflicts in the Gulf region, exacerbated by the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) episode in Asia, postponed recovery further. Estimates of world economic growth settled at the 2.5% level for 2003 (close to the recession threshold), and somewhat higher at 3%–3.5% for 2004. The growth prospect is still subject to many uncertainties.

  • The world’s largest economy, the United States of America enjoyed continuous growth over the nine years to 2000 to a GDP of $10 trillion at current prices, up 28% since 1996.The economy began slowing down first in the second half of 2000 and the first half of 2001. A dip started in March 2001 as the stock market plunge took its toll on share prices. Company profits fell sharply and the ‘tech-bubble’ burst with an effect on prices and a less than favourable employment outlook.

  • Spain’s economic performance in recent years has been among the best in Europe, especially as far as the wood industry is concerned. The country’s GDP per capita is slightly lower than the European average. However, Spain has a fairly large black economy, pushing actual GDP per capita beyond the official figure.

  • The dominant species in tropical forest plantations include pine, rubberwood, acacia, teak, gmelina and eucalyptus. In general, their wood comes in smaller dimensions, of mediocre qualities compared with natural timbers, and with lower natural durability. These imperfections call for immediate improvements in wood drying, jointing and edge-gluing, wood preservation and product finishing. But, as rubberwood has shown, many obstacles can be overcome with sufficient research and development.

  • The Comité européen de normalisation (CEN, or the European Committee for Standardization) is responsible for the harmonization of standards in the European Union. CEN has 20 national members, which are also national standards bodies. The members must implement European standards as national standards and withdraw all conflicting national standards on the same subject.

  • Product certification is carried out against the requirements of one or several standards, and is closely associated with testing. The issuance of a certificate indicates that a product meets the requirements of the standard or standards concerned. In addition, it implies that continuous quality control is carried out by the manufacturer’s own quality control system, that the manufacturer’s quality processes are audited by a third party, and that product tests are undertaken on a spot-check basis. Companies apply for product certification mainly to fulfil customer requirements in the export trade but sometimes also for domestic marketing purposes. Product certification is usually publicized through the use of product labels.