May 2010
Over The Wire Tissue Edition
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Global Wood Chip Shipments Fell 14% in 2009, with China Bucking the Trend

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The 2009 international financial crisis had a major negative impact on worldwide demand for pulp and paper products. As a result, the consumption of wood chips and pulpwood for pulp production was lower and global trade of wood chips fell 14%, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ), Seattle, Wash., USA. China bucked this trend, almost tripling its imports to become the world's second largest importer of wood chips last year.

As WRQ explains, wood chip trade had increased on average 5% per year between 2002 and 2008, reaching an all-time high of 31 million o.d. metric tons in 2008. This upward trend was broken last year when trade fell 14% from the previous year, WRQ reports. International trade of wood chips has historically been driven by pulp manufacturers' need for either unique wood fiber properties not available locally, for fiber competitively priced, or for strategic reasons. Despite the recent decline, global trade of wood chips has more than doubled in 20 years.

The trade reduction in 2009 was equal for both softwood and hardwood chips, and most countries cut back fiber imports. The only major exceptions were Turkey, which increased its imports by 50% last year, and China, which almost tripled its imports. China has evolved from having been a net exporter of chips five years ago, to being a major chip consumer. The country now imports almost 20% of all chips traded in the Pacific Rim and is now the world's second largest importer of woodchips after Japan, according to WRQ.

Trade of wood chips is still the highest in the Pacific Rim, accounting for about 55% of the total global trade and more than 95% of water-born trade. The major exporting countries in 2009 were Australia, Chile, the U.S., Vietnam, and South Africa, which together exported just over 16 million o.d. metric tons. A majority of the shipments were eucalyptus wood chips destined for pulp mills in Japan and China. The most dramatic reductions in export volumes last year occurred in Australia (-22%), the U.S. (-25%, a majority bound for Canada), and South Africa (-45%), according to WRQ. In contrast, Vietnam and Russia both increased their shipments last year. Outside of the top five it is worth noting that shipments from Uruguay declined by almost 50% last year, WRQ said..

Trade of wood raw-material, including logs and wood chips, is likely to increase in 2010 as the global economy slowly recovers and as a consequence, the demand for most forest products will improve. In addition, many energy companies in Europe are searching for new sources of biomass, which will further expand the overseas trade of wood chips. More information is available online.



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