U.S. Lumber Exporters Lose China Market Share - Global Trade Magazine
  June 15th, 2015 | Written by

U.S. Lumber Exporters Lose China Market Share

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  • Nordic countries surpass the U.S. in lumber #exports to China
  • China demands higher quality softwood #imports, causing U.S. lumber #exporters to lose China market share
  • Sweden’s softwood lumber #exports to China soar by 52 percent

In April, the volume of global softwood lumber exports to China, the world’s largest market for the product, reached its second highest level on record as the country’s demand skyrocketed this spring after a six-month slow period.

According to the Wood Resources International (WRI), exports during the first four months of this year climbed 2.1 percent higher than in the same period last year, with Sweden and Finland seeing their share of the volume soar by 52 and 32 percent, respectively, year-to-year.

Russia also saw its softwood lumber shipments to China grow by more than 13 percent during the month as prices in April were at their lowest level since 2012.

The country’s share of total softwood lumber exports to China has climbed steadily the past four years from 36 percent in 2011 to approximately 47 percent for the first four months of 2015, says Seattle-based WRI.

CHINA’S DEMAND FOR HIGH-END SOFTWOOD DRIVES NEW EXPORTING TREND

Gains by Sweden, Finland and Russia add up to losses for most of the other countries that supply softwood lumber to China, specifically the U.S. (- 41 percent), Canada (- three percent) and Chile (- three percent).

According to WRI, lumber volumes from the Nordic countries have gone up dramatically in early 2015 though the region currently supplies only four percent of China’s import volume.

China’s increasing demand for high-value, higher quality softwood explains the eyebrow-raising growth in China-bound softwood lumber exports from Sweden and Finland.

Both Sweden and Finland mainly export high-end spruce lumber to China, while the U.S., Canada and Chile primarily export cheaper pine.

At the same time that prices for Nordic lumber have fallen steeper than those for lumber from other major supplying countries, the cost of Russian pine has dropped to almost half that of the three other major suppliers, adds the WRI.