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Booming plywood imports a concern for domestic industry

Plywood imports to Australia rose a hefty 21.4% for the year-ended January 2018, totalling almost 500,000 cubic metres for the year, raising concerns for the Australian manufacturers.

Analysis of the latest trade data shows imports have risen particularly strongly through the second half of 2017, and into early 2018. Source: Industry Edge

Higher imports and expectations that plywood production has been relatively stable over the same period are linked to the strength of the housing and construction markets.

The focus of Australia’s housing market is now firmly focused on free-standing houses and townhouses, which are less likely to use some grades of plywood than multi-storey apartments.

Speaking exclusively to DTN, Tim Woods, Managing Director of IndustryEdge said that regardless of the strength of the housing market, the imports will be causing concern for local producers.

“One-off rises in imports and occasional spikes are to be expected. Imports play an important part in the total market.” Mr Woods said. “But what will have the local producers interested is the sustained growth in imports over the last year.”

In its monthly publication, Wood Market Edge, trade and market analysts IndustryEdge point to the generic grade of plywood as having experienced the largest import growth. “The generic grade has seen imports rise a very large 54% over the last year.” Mr Woods told DTN. “That means imports of that grade alone are up around 205,000 cubic metres on an annualized basis.”

Industry interest in Australia has inevitably turned to exactly what products are included inside the general grade of imports. Much of that interest centres on what are understood to be growing imports of construction or formply, used in concrete pours.

“I am not sure we can put all of the rise in imports down to the continued strength of the Australian housing and construction sectors.” Mr Woods said. “Building activity remains strong, but for a year or more, the focus has been away from concrete towers where large quantities of plywood are used.”

IndustryEdge suggests higher imports may be linked to mining industry projects, but as Mr Woods says: “There is a lot of plywood being imported right now, and it is not entirely clear exactly what grades it is or where it is being used.”

IndustryEdge can be contacted at [email protected] or via