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China Imports Record $9 Billion in Logs, Lumber in 2013

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Importation of logs and lumber to China reached a new record in 2013, with lumber imports being up 19% and log imports increasing 23% from 2012, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ), Seattle, Wash., USA. The unprecedented increase in lumber shipments to the Chinese market that began in 2008 is continuing. In 2008, the country imported 3.6 million cubic meters of softwood lumber valued at $700 million, WRQ notes. Two years later, in 2010, the volume had increased to 9.4 million cubic meters and in 2013, China imported close to 17 million cubic meters of lumber valued at a bit over $3.6 billion.

Canada and Russia are the two major suppliers of lumber to China, with Canada having overtaken Russia as the largest supplier in 2010. Together, these two countries supplied almost 80% of all imports. However, this year Europe, Russia, Chile, and New Zealand have all increased their shipments to China at a higher pace than has Canada. Sweden, for example, more than tripled its export volume from 2012 to 2013 to reach 370,000 cubic meters, or just over 2% of the import volume last year.

This trend, where countries that just a few years ago were virtually non-existent in the Chinese market are now expanding, is likely to continue in the coming years both because China’s continued hunger for more wood and because Canada is not likely to increase exports much more than the levels seen over the past few years.

Importation of softwood logs to China really took off during the second half of 2013. In the first half, import volumes were about 14.8 million cubic meters, and in the second half of 2013, China imported 18.1 million cubic meters, an increase of 23% in just six months, making 2013 a record year for Chinese log imports. The total value of imported logs reached just over $5 billion dollars.

During the past year, all major log suppliers to China increased their shipments except Russia, which in 2013 shipped the lowest volume since 2004. New Zealand shipments were up by 32% year-over-year, the U.S. increased volumes by 55%, and interestingly, Ukraine, which just a few years ago did not export any logs to China, shipped 1.4 million cubic meters in 2013, a tripling from the previous year, WRQ points out.

With record shipments of logs and lumber from North America to China during 2013, it will be very interesting to see if Chinese wood buyers can continue to increase their imports from the U.S. and Canada in 2014 and 2015 when demand for lumber is likely to go up in the U.S. market.

More information is available online.


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