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Wood products sector eyeing growth in North Africa and Middle East

The strategy is that of looking at medium-long-term developments, without being too influenced by the signs of economic instability to which the Middle Eastern and North African countries have historically accustomed Italian entrepreneurs.

“Two elements make these potential sales markets very important for the Italian wood production chain, from manufacturers of machineries and technologies, to panel and finishing companies, to the construction companies,” explains Paolo Fantoni, the director of Made Eventi, the FederlegnoArredo company that organizes Made Expo, the building construction and architecture fair. “The traditional lack of the raw material wood, which often makes it cheaper to import the semi-finished products rather than the raw logs, and the heavy rate of urbanization, which brings with it significant investments in public and private construction.”

That’s why the roadshow organized to promote the next edition of Made (from March 8-11, 2017 in Fiera Rho in Milan) focuses on these countries, beginning with the United Arab Emirates, where Tuesday the first appointment was held, to be followed by Algeria and Morocco (respectively December 14 and 15).

All this to strengthen the internationalization of the Milan fair, where 12% of the visitors were foreigners in 2015, and out of a total of 208,000 participants, 36,000 were operators coming from abroad. The aim is to increase the percentage of exporting wood companies: now they are around 20-25% compared to 50-55% of their “cousins,” the furniture companies. “We must convince the entrepreneurs to invest not only in machineries and technologies, but also in export managers,” adds Fantoni.

The international scenario is indeed favorable: according to the latest ANCE (the Italian construction industry association) report on the presence of Italian building companies in the world, the year 2015 represented the 11th consecutive year of growth beyond national borders for Made-in-Italy construction, with an important role played by the Middle Eastern and North African countries.

“I am convinced of the importance of positioning Italy as a privileged trading partner for these areas,” said Fantoni, “both for the sale of semi-finished or finished products, and for supplying machineries and technologies for the development of the national industries.”

The gap in wood-working skills and in the goods produced in these countries works in Italy’s favor. The export figures for wood products in the first seven months of 2016, which have fallen for Algeria and Morocco compared to the same period in 2015, have little impact on the companies’ strategies. The recovery in the last months and analysts’ forecasts, in fact, encourage Italian companies, which can, in both countries, count on strong public investments in infrastructures and in residential buildings. The situation is different for the United Arab Emirates, and especially for Dubai, where the driving force of Expo 2020 brought a further acceleration in the already flourishing construction industry, which should register a 4% growth in 2017.


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