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Uptick for lumber demand

The uptick in demand for lumber continued in early 2019, with most of the major­ lumber exporting countries increasing their shipments as compared with early 2018, reported Wood Resources International in its Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ). Sources: Lesprom, Timberbiz

Out of the top 10 exporting countries, the largest year-over-year increases (in %)­ were in Ukraine, Russia, the US, Chile and Germany. Lumber exports from Ukraine­ have taken off dramatically after the country banned practically all exports of­ softwood logs in 2017.

North America­ 

The free fall of lumber prices in the US came to a halt in early 2019, when prices­ were close to a four-year low. During the spring prices rose modest in both the US­ South and the US West. However, prices were substantially lower than their record­ highs in the 1H/18.

Overseas supply of softwood lumber to the US has always been­ a fairly small share of the total import volume. Canadian supply has historically­ accounted for 94-97% of total imports, only declining when US lumber prices have­ been high, thus attracting imports from Europe and Latin America.

However, non-Canadian imports have increased for six consecutive years and in 2018 reached­ their highest level seen in 11 years. Softwood lumber exports from Canada were down 6% year-over-year in 2018, with the biggest decline being in shipments to­ China.

Despite efforts by Canada’s lumber industry to diversify its export­ shipments, 80% of total exports were destined for the US market in the 3Q/18 – a­ three-year high. However, this share fell to 76% in the 1Q/19 when exports to China­ rose again.

Northern Europe­ 

For the first time in five years, Swedish exports of softwood lumber fell year-over-year­ in 2018. The biggest declines from 2017 to 2018 were in exports to Asia and­ the MENA region, while shipments to the European market remained practically­ unchanged.

The European share of total exports from Sweden reached 67% in­ 2018, the highest level seen since 2011. The MENA region accounted for just over­ 18% of total shipments, the second lowest share in 10 years.

Export prices (in­ US$) have stayed high during 2018 and actually averaged the highest level seen­ since 2014.


Despite much uncertainty in the near future for the Chinese economy, lumber­ imports rose unexpectedly in the 1Q/19 by as much as 14%, as compared with the­ same quarter in 2018, according to the WRQ.

Most of the increase was due to­ increases in shipments from Russia and Canada, while supply from Europe and­ Latin America declined. Import prices took a substantial hit in the past year, falling­ from an average of $335/m3 in March 2018 to $288/m3 in March 2019.


Russia increased exports of softwood lumber by 7% from 2017 to 2018 to reach­ almost 30 million m3. This was the sixth consecutive year that exports have gone­ up from the previous year.

Of the five largest export markets (China, Uzbekistan,­ Egypt, Azerbaijan and Japan), only Japan imported less lumber from Russia in 2018­ than in the previous year.­