Log and softwood shipments around the world totaled an estimated $50 billion in 2013, higher than in 2012 and the highest level since the start of the Great Recession in 2008, according to a new report by Seattle-based Wood Resources International (WRI).
Softwood products comprised nearly two-thirds of global shipments. However, according to the Wood Resources Quarterly, shipments of logs have increased faster than shipments of lumber the past five years, the total value of traded lumber is still more than double that of logs.
“Softwood lumber is, by far the most commonly shipped wood product worldwide and the U.S. continues to be the major destination for internationally traded lumber, with Canada currently supplying almost 96% of all imports to the country,” WRI reported. “Lumber shipped by break- bulk vessels or by container ships accounted for more than half of the total volume of lumber traded in the world in 2013.”
The largest share of overseas lumber trade was between Canada and Asia, with trade between Sweden and the United Kingdom and North Africa following.
The report noted that the biggest changes in overseas lumber trade in last year were continued increases in exports from the Nordic countries to Asia (mainly Japan) and from North America (mainly Canada) to China, while there has been a decline in trade within Europe and in shipments from most supplying countries to Northern Africa.
The unrest and uncertain political situation in Egypt has left sawmills there searching for alternative markets and many lumber companies in Europe and Russia have found new opportunities for increased sales in Asia over the past 12 months.
There has been an unprecedented increase in demand for softwood lumber in Asia the past few years, with the three major importing countries: Japan, China, and South Korea together importing more than twice as much lumber in 2013 as they did in 2008.
The report said that the strengthening lumber market in the U.S. will likely prompt Western Canadian sawmills to redirect some of their going to Asia into the American market in the coming year. The shift will give European and Latin American lumber producers an opportunity to boost trade with both Japan and China.
The 52-page Wood Resource Quarterly is available from WRI.