Global trade of softwood lumber slowed in the 3Q/19 but was still on pace

to be higher than in 2018. Russia, Belarus, Germany and Finland have

boosted their lumber sales the most this year, reports the WRQ

This is a brief excerpt from the newly released market report Wood Resource Quarterly.

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Global Softwood Lumber Trade

  • Russia has surpassed Canada to become the world’s largest exporter of softwood

lumber, and is on track to ship almost 32 million m3 of lumber in 2019 (23% of

globally traded lumber this year). Despite slowing economies in North America,

Europe and Asia, lumber imports to these markets were higher in 2019 than in 2018.

  • Volume traded during the first nine months of 2019 represented the second lowest

y-o-y increase for the period in eight years, according to the WRQ. Of the world’s

ten leading exporting countries, Russia, Belarus, Germany and Finland have

boosted their lumber sales the most this year.

Lumber Market – North America

  • Lumber production has fallen in both the US and Canada in 2019 because of

disappointingly low activity in the US housing market and meager demand for

North American lumber in overseas markets. From January to September in 2019,

lumber exports from Canada were down 5% y-o-y, while US shipments fell as

much as 23%.

  • All the major lumber-producing companies in British Columbia have taken

downtime this fall, causing production to plummet 19% in 2019.

  • Prices for softwood lumber were quite stable during the summer and fall in three

of the four major lumber-producing regions of North America. Only in the US

Northwest, where log supply has been tight and demand for lumber along the US

west coast has stayed healthy, did lumber prices move up from their lower prices

early in the year.

Lumber markets – China

  • China imported 15% more softwood lumber in the first nine months of 2019 than

during the same period in 2018. Importation has trended upward for over five years.

  • Russia supplied 60% of the import volume to China in the 3Q/19, a slight decline

from the 3Q/18. Imports from Canada rose 18% y-o-y and import volumes more

than doubled from a few smaller suppliers this past year, including Germany,

Ukraine and Belarus. Lumber import prices have fallen for three consecutive

quarters to average $174/m3 in the 3Q/19, the lowest level since 2016.

Lumber Market – Germany

  • Germany’s exports of softwood lumber reached a ten-year record high of 8.2

million m3 in 2018, which was 10% higher than the previous year and 23% more

than in 2014. Exports have continued to grow in 2019, with the biggest increases

coming in shipments to China, the US, the UK and India. The development in trade

with China has been quite remarkable, with export volumes surging from 102,000

m3 during the first nine months of 2018 to 580,000 m3 during the same period in


  • The US has become the major destination for German lumber, with shipments

increasing ten-fold in just three years. The US is not only the largest market for

German lumber exporters, but it has also been the market that has paid the highest

prices, as reported in the latest issue of the WRQ.

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