22 - 26 February 2024 | BIEC, Bengaluru, India
International Trade Fair for Furniture Production Technologies, Woodworking Machinery, Tools, Fittings, Accessories, Raw Materials and Products

Wood Transformation Industries @ Nkok (Gabon) SEZ from Good to Better

The SEZ offers a unique fiscal status which provides a stable and competitive economic climate intending to settle. Presently, the zone is home to more than 141 investors coming from 18 different countries. NKOK Special Economic Zone in Gabon is rapidly emerging as West Central Africa’s manufacturing hub and entrepreneurs from across the globe are welcome to benefit from the business opportunities unlocked by SEZ at Nkok.

Wood industries at Nkok SEZ, Gabon performed well in year 2020 compared to many wood transformation hubs across the world. Wood transformation industries at Nkok SEZ witnessed a growth of 5%, with respect to wood volume processed; from 670,000 cubic meters in 2019 to 705,000 cubic meters in 2020, despite the difficulties posed by COVID-19. The wood products’ exports from Nkok SEZ itself in 2020 was upwards of 410,000 cubic meters which included veneer, sawn timber, plywood and furniture, representing 45% of total wood products’ exports from Gabon.

Sawn Timber Exports

The sawn timber exports of Nkok SEZ grew at more 40% per annum for the period between 2017 and 2020. The 13 operational saw mills in Nkok SEZ exported around 150,000 cubic meters of sawn timber to 30 countries around the world. China remained the top importer of sawn timber with a share of 54% of total production. The sawn timber exports in 2020 to Europe was 12,000 cubic meters with a growth of 129% over 2019. With the change in export tariff in favour of further processing of sawn timber, saw mill operators in Nkok SEZ are now upgrading their facilities to produce consumer products like flooring, decking, door and door frames etc.

Veneer Exports

The annualized growth of Okoumé veneer exports from Nkok SEZ during the period from 2017 to 2020 was over 15%. 35 veneer manufacturing units in Nkok SEZ, majority of which are established by Indians, exported over 250,000 cubic meters of Okoumé veneer to 35 countries around the world. Alike last three years, India remained the top export destination for veneer produced in Nkok SEZ with a share of 45%. In year 2020, the export volume to India shrank by 35% decrease to 110,000 cubic meters. While the veneer export to Europe and China witnessed a growth of 63% and 32% respectively in 2020 over 2019.

This change in export profile Indian markets to European and other high value markets is mainly due to higher pricing regime of Okoumé veneer compared to Indian markets. Many of the veneer manufacturers in Nkok SEZ have upgraded their production facilities for supplying to European and other high value markets.

Plywood & Other Wood Panel

Plywood exports from Nkok SEZ in 2020 doubled compared to export volumes in 2019. Star Ply, established by Indian investors, exported around 10,000 cubic meters of plywood, mainly to Europe and USA markets. Star Ply is currently expanding its production capacity and likely to reach an annual production capacity of around 50,000 cubic meters. Since beginning of 2021, two more plywood units promoted by Chinese investors, have started production and three more plywood units will start production within year 2021. The total plywood exports from Nkok is estimated to reach 100,000 cubic meters in 2022 from around 13,000 cubic meters in 2020. The Particle Board plant at Nkok SEZ is nearing construction and slated to be in production in first quarter of 2022. This plant will provide the required impetus for panel based furniture manufacturing.

Challenges and Road Ahead

The supply of logs from upcountry forests to Nkok SEZ faced intermittent interruptions due to many derailments of log trains. SETRAG, train operator in Gabon, is currently working on the strengthening of railway tracks. Although marred by these operational issue, the throughput of trains in terms of bringing logs to Nkok SEZ from various forests across Gabon increased to 300,000 cubic meters in 2020 from just 50,000 cubic meters in 2017. The operational efficiency of trains is expected to be enhanced post strengthening of railway tracks. The throughput of trains in bringing logs to Nkok SEZ is expected to be above 450,000 cubic meters in 2022.

GSEZ is augmenting its log truck fleet and adding sixty (60) more log trucks to their existing fleet of 100 log trucks in July 202. The supply of logs to Nkok SEZ by way of roads is expected to be upwards of 500,000 cubic meters this year.

Forest harvesting from five (5) new concessions with a cumulative area of 800,000 ha started in the year 2021. The additional log supply to Nkok SEZ from these forest concessions in 2021 is estimated to 100,000 cubic meters. Total supply of logs to Nkok SEZ will reach 85,000 cubic meters per month in third quarter of 2021 as compared to current average supply of 60,000 cubic meters per month.

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