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An understanding of important markets, their requirements, the competitive products and the potential in these markets is essential for business success. Information on the conditions, inter-relationships and main characteristics of markets is essential for a wide range of organizations and individuals connected with the forestry sector - from growers to traders. The information is important for identifying opportunities, developing policies and strategies, and for developing institutional and infrastructural conditions under which marketing of forest products can take place most successfully. In addition to those actively engaged in trade, this information and understanding is important for governments who may wish to encourage their own country's industries - or where they may be providing assistance to other countries through their aid programmes. Amongst other things, an effective trade gives value to the resource and in so-doing provides an incentive for ensuring the resource is well-managed and thus ensuring the long-term viability of the tropical forests.

The Western Europe market is of major importance for tropical solid wood products. Because of its great importance, FAO commissioned this present study on "Markets for High-Value Tropical Hardwoods in Europe". As the title indicates, it focuses on the important high-value end of the market. This report continues FAO's efforts to provide market information which may assist in building an effective trade. It continues FAO's interest in tropical timber markets and follows-on from earlier reports, such as: "Production and Trade in Tropical Hardwoods: an Asian/Pacific Case Study", which was published jointly by FAO and the Center for International Trade in Forest Products (CINTRAFOR) of the University of Washington, United States of America, in 1990, and gave special attention to the Asia/Pacific region; and in particular the study "High-Value Markets for Tropical Sawnwood, Plywood and Veneer in the European Community", published by FAO in 1991.

This present study was carried out under contract to FAO by the BioComposites Centre, University of Wales, Bangor, United Kingdom. Roger Cooper of the School of Agricultural and Forest Sciences, and Ceri Loxton and Mark Hughes, both of the BioComposites Centre, were involved in its preparation. It was funded jointly by the FAO Regular Programme and by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) which provided trust funds through its FAO project GCP/INT/628/UK - "Timber Production from Hardwood Plantations in the Tropics and Sub-tropics", being implemented by the FAO Forest Resources Division. The study was under the direct supervision of Mr L. Lintu of the FAO Forest Products Division in close collaboration with the Forest Resources Division.

FAO would like to record its thanks to the authors for their excellent work, and to DFID for its funding assistance. It would also like to join the authors of the report in thanking the many individuals and organizations that responded to the approaches for information by the consultants. These responses gave valuable information and perspectives on many of the market issues discussed.

FAO trusts that this paper will assist tropical countries in their efforts to build an effective trade in Europe.

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