This is an excerpt from the newly released market report Wood Resource Quarterly.
To read the full 56-page quarterly report, please visit www.woodprices.
Global Lumber Trade
Trade of softwood lumber reached an all-time-high in 2017 as demand for wood was strong
in most key markets around the world. An estimated 126 million m3 of softwood lumber
was shipped from forest-rich countries such as Canada, Russia, Sweden and Finland to
markets with high consumption of lumber, including China, the US, the United Kingdom,
Japan and Germany. Since the global recession in 2008, international trade of lumber has
gone up by as much as 50%. With the economy forecasted to stay healthy in the US and
Europe in 2018, this might be another good year for lumber exporters.
Lumber markets – North America
US softwood lumber production in 2017 reached the highest level seen in ten years. The
biggest increase came in the southern states, but other regions of the country also had
healthy production gains year-over-year. The higher domestic production levels resulted in
decreased demand for imported lumber as US lumber consumption was up by only one
percent from 2016. The strong market for lumber in the US led to record high lumber prices
in both the US and Canada in late 2017 and early 2018.
Lumber markets – Northern Europe
Softwood lumber production in Finland reached a ten-year high of 11.9 million m3 in 2017.
The higher production was driven by expanding lumber exports, particularly to China.
High demand for lumber from Europe, Asia and the US in late 2017 pushed export prices
in the Nordic countries to their highest levels in almost three years.
Lumber markets – China
Over the past two years, prices for imported softwood lumber to China have been steadily
rising and in January 2018 reached their highest levels since March 2015. Lumber supply
from Russia and North America has generally been the lowest cost lumber imported to
China, while lumber from Chile, Sweden and Finland typically is at the higher end of the
Russia and Canada continue to be the major suppliers, but their total market share has
shrunk from 81% in 2015 to 76% in 2017, with particularly Nordic mills increasing their
presence in this fast-growing market.
Lumber market – Japan
Although lumber imports to Japan fell in the 4Q/17, the total volume for the year was up
slightly for the second consecutive year. The biggest changes in supply over the past few
years have been reduced shipments from Canada and increased imports from Finland and
Sweden. Compared to most other major markets of the world, domestic and import prices
for lumber have been surprisingly stable.
Lumber market – Middle East/North Africa
The Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) lumber markets grew fast from 2007 to
2015, reaching a peak of imported lumber of about 11.5 million m3 in 2015. Since then,
import volumes have fallen by over 20% to an estimated nine million m3 in 2017. This
decline came as the result of financial and political uncertainties in many countries in the
region. Additionally, Finland and Sweden began redirect their sales to meet growing wood
demand in China and other European nations.