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NZ log exports fell sharply in April – a bounce back is expected

Log exports from New Zealand fell sharply in April 2020 after logging operations were suspended during alert level 4, but average prices per cubic metre picked up according to Stats NZ. Source: Timberbiz

In contrast, dairy and fruit exports were strong despite fears of port congestion amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Total exports fell $220 million (4%) to NZ$5.3 billion in April 2020 compared with the same month last year.

“Total exports would have been worth almost the same as April last year, if they had not been undercut by the big drop in logs,” international statistics manager Darren Allan said.

Exports of logs were worth just NZ$96 million in April 2020, down NZ$211 million from NZ$307 million last April. While the quantity of logs exported fell 69%, the biggest-ever monthly percentage fall, the price has risen to NZ$170 a cubic metre this month after falling to NZ$137 in July 2019.

“Log harvesting was a non-essential service under alert level 4 and didn’t restart until alert level 3 at the end of April, so it is understandable that log exports have dropped sharply,” Mr Allan said.

Most New Zealand logs are exported to China.

“However, the increase in unit price may suggest there is still unmet demand as log inventories in China are run down and export values may bounce back quickly as harvesting picks up again.”

The value of sawn timber exports also fell NZ$61 million or 79%, reflecting the log shortage.