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U.S. Timber Harvests Increase 10% from 2011 to 2015

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According to official statistics, the U.S. timber harvests were practically the same in 2015 as in 2011, coming in at 355 million cubic meters. This appears to be quite low considering the log demand by the U.S. forest industry. Analysis by Wood Resources International, Seattle, Wash., USA, based on derived log consumption by the forest industry in the U.S. and net log trade, indicates that the actual removals of industrial roundwood were closer to 411 million cubic meters in 2015, and 10% higher than in 2011.

The major reasons for the increase in log consumption over the five-year period include higher lumber and wood pellet production. Softwood lumber production was up by as much as 21% from 2011 to 2015, while production of hardwood lumber increased 28% over the same period. The wood pellet sector, which is concentrated in the southern states and is targeting the European market, has increased six-fold in five years but still consumes slightly more than 3% of the total timber harvest in the U.S.

The substantial rise in both softwood and hardwood lumber production in the U.S. over the past few years has resulted in a higher percentage of the timber removals being shipped to sawmills in 2015 than in 2011. During the same period, log consumption by the country’s pulp mills and log exports have declined.

Log exports from the U.S. West Coast to Asia fell quite substantially from 2013 to 2015. In just two years, shipments were down 33% to six million cubic meters in 2015. Reduced demand for U.S. export logs has not been limited to China the past few years but to Japan and South Korea as well. A combination of less demand for logs by sawmills in Asia and a strong U.S. dollar has resulted in U.S. log shipments falling to their lowest levels in five years. However, during the first eight months of 2016, exports were up 13% compared with the same period in 2015, as reported in the Wood Resource Quarterly, Seattle.

Historically, there have been minimal exports of logs from the U.S. South. This started to change in 2011 when about 200,000 cubic meters of pine logs were shipped to China, and by 2014 the volumes had almost quadrupled with India and the Dominican Republic being added to the list of destinations. In 2016, export volumes have picked up again and have been about 50% higher than in 2015.

Global lumber, sawlog, and pulpwood market reporting is included in the 52-page quarterly publication Wood Resource Quarterly. The report, which was established in 1988 and has subscribers in more than 30 countries, tracks sawlog, pulpwood, wood chip, lumber and pellet prices, trade, and market developments in most key regions around the world. More information is available online. 

Wood Resources International publishes two quarterly timber price reports and also has subscribers in more than 30 countries. The market report includes sawlog prices, pulpwood and wood chip price, and market commentary on developments in global timber, biomass, and the forest industry. The other report, the North American Wood Fiber Review, tracks prices of sawlogs, pulpwood, wood chips, and biomass in most regions of Canada and the U.S.


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