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China's Log Imports up 10% in First Four Months of 2013

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China's hunger for wood was less acute in 2012 than in the previous year. In particular, importation of softwood logs fell substantially from the record levels of 2011. Importation of lumber was also lower in 2012, but the decline was much less than that of logs. The biggest changes in log and lumber imports between 2011 and 2012 were the sharp decline of Russian log volumes crossing the Chinese border and the reduced lumber shipments from the U.S. to Chinese ports, as reported by the Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ), Seattle, Wash., USA. During the first four months of 2013, import volumes of both logs and lumber picked up and were 12% and 19% higher, respectively, than in the 1Q/12.

The housing sector, a major consumer of imported lumber, has been strong in early 2013, and prices for new houses in 70 cities rose on average by more than 4% in April, up from 3.1% in March, 2013, according to national statistics. So far this year, the housing construction sector has outperformed the manufacturing, trade, investment, and personal consumption sectors.

North America is a major supplier of softwood products to China, with the market share for lumber and logs in the 1Q/13 accounting for 51% and 23%, respectively. In 2012, Canada and the U.S. exported logs and lumber valued at just over $3 billion, which was down 23% from 2011. During the first four months of this year, the import value for softwood logs and lumber from North America totaled $940 million dollars, an increase of more than 30% from the same period in 2012.

New Zealand's log-exporting companies continue to expand their presence in China. In 2012, New Zealand was the only country that expanded shipments when total Chinese log imports fell by 15%. Russia has for many years been the major log supplier to China, but in the 1Q/13, Russia and New Zealand both had a market share of close to 33% after year-over-year shipments were up almost 50% from New Zealand and down by 18% from Russia, according to the WRQ.

The biggest change in the Chinese buyers' sourcing of lumber has been the doubling of importation from Chile and the almost tripling in shipments from Sweden and Finland. Although these three countries still account for less than 10% of all imports, it is likely that their presence in China will expand in the coming years.

More information is available online.


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