Global softwood lumber trade increased 12% year-over-year to reach a new record-high of 121 million cu. ft. in 2016, according to Wood Resources International.
Since the global financial recession in 2009, there has been a steady climb in international trade of lumber, with shipments the past seven years increasing as much as 66%.
While it’s no surprise that China is a major driver for the dramatic rise in lumber shipments worldwide the past seven years, it is interesting to note that the U.S. has actually increased softwood lumber imports more than China.
Lumber exports from British Columbia reached their highest levels since 2006 in 2016. Lumber shipments from the province to the U.S. were up 25%, while exports to Asia fell about 8%.
Lumber prices in the Nordic countries were at historically low levels during most of 2015 and 2016. During the first 10 months of 2016, Finland increased lumber exports by 10%, on pace for a record year. It is interesting to note that the three biggest export markets for Finnish sawmills are all outside Europe: Egypt, Japan and China.
China imported record high volumes of softwood lumber in 2016, with import volumes in the fourth quarter up about 20% compared to the year earlier.
Japanese softwood lumber imports in 2016 were the highest they have been in three years as total wood demand in the country picked up 3.6% from 2015. There has been a slow but steady shift in the sourcing of lumber away from North America to Europe and Eastern Russia the past few years. From 2015 to 2016, the North American market share fell from 39% to 35%, while the market share of lumber from Russia and the Nordic countries increased from 39% to 42% year-over-year.
Exports of Russian lumber jumped 10% in 2016, contributing to a 26% increase over the last three years. More than half the wood was shipped to China.