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Lumber imports to China close to record high in April

Published by
Simon Matthis - 15 Jun 2015

Demand for imported softwood lumber in China sky-rocked this spring after a slow period from August 2014 to March 2015. In February, import volumes were down to 860,000 m3 for the month, a two-year low. In just two months, shipments doubled to 1.7 million m3 for the month of April, the second highest monthly import volume on record. Year-to-date import volumes were 2.1% higher this year than during the same period in 2014, with Russian shipments having increased 13%, as reported in the latest issue of the Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ).

Russia’s share of total softwood lumber imports to China has climbed steadily the past four years from 36% in 2011 to approximately 47% for the first four months of 2015. Most of the other major lumber-supplying countries to China have reduced their shipments this year, specifically the US (-41%), Canada (-3%) and Chile (-3%).

Lumber volumes from the Nordic countries have gone up dramatically in early 2015. Although this region supplies only four percent of the total import volume, it is still noteworthy that shipments from Finland and Sweden were up by 52% and 32% respectively, year-over-year.

Since these two countries supply softwood lumber with some of the highest average import values (about $260/m3 CIF) of all countries selling lumber to China, it is an indication that demand for higher quality wood is in increasing demand. Sweden exports mainly spruce lumber to China with about 20% being planed wood. A majority of Finnish lumber is also spruce, with the remaining volume being pine.

Overall, lumber import prices to China have trended downward in 2015 with the April average prices reaching their lowest level since late 2012. Prices for Nordic lumber have fallen steeper than those for lumber from other major supplying countries. Russian lumber (mostly pine) continues to be the lower value wood, while the average cost for lumber from the Nordic countries, Chile and New Zealand currently is almost twice as high.