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Riga During the first nine months of this year, cargo turnover between Riga and UK ports amounted to 2.5 million tonnes or more than 10 percent of the total cargo turnover at the port, thus, interest in everything related to Brexit is quite logical: timber exports make up two thirds of all shipments from Latvia to the UK, and news about Brexit is especially important to those port operators that offer handling and loading of timber consignments.

Kristaps Klauss, Executive Director of the Latvian Wood Industry Federation, claims that there is no reason to worry: “The UK will always have to import timber, as they process more than they are able to produce. For example, annually they use approximately 10 million cubic metres of coniferous sawnwood, but local producers are able to produce only 3 million cubic metres of this type of timber.”

Currently, uncertainty surrounding future scenarios and the potential chaos that may be created in the wake of Brexit raises the gravest concerns for port operators. As Brexit conditions are not yet clear to either party, bodies that are responsible for the monitoring and administration of cargo flows cannot adequately prepare. “Of course, possible chaos may result in some short-term losses. However, I think that Latvian companies have already made all the changes that were needed to duly prepare, as these changes have always been relevant to them. British partners who have always taken the benefits of the single market for granted should be more worried,” explains Kristaps Klauss.

In this context, Brexit may not only cause losses, but also even offer new opportunities for Latvian producers of timber and the respective logistics companies. “The ability to work in difficult conditions is one of our strengths,” underlines the Executive Director of the Latvian Wood Industry Federation. “We are more used to working in difficult conditions than our competitors. Our companies are inured, have learned to be dynamic, review risks continuously, diversify export markets and adjust to any changes. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that shortly after the Brexit vote Swedish exports of timber to the UK significantly decreased, while Latvian exports even increased,” continues Kristaps Klauss.

It should be noted that Latvia is a significant player on the global timber industry map. Latvia ranks 4th in terms of exports of wood pellets and birch plywood, and is one of the top ten global exporters of coniferous sawnwood. Exports to the UK make up 20% of all timber exports from Latvia. This share is even larger in the timber portfolio of the Freeport of Riga: more than 40% of forestry cargo leaving the Port of Riga is shipped to the UK.

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