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Why are structural softwood imports booming

Australia’s booming sawn softwood imports are dominated by structural grades, latest analysis shows. Working with industry stakeholders, IndustryEdge has established that in July, structural grades accounted for 91.5% of total sawn softwood imports. Source: IndustryEdge for Timberbiz

Imports for the month totalled 80,374 m3 according to IndustryEdge, and the structural grades more than 73,500 m3.

“By the middle of next year, we expect sawn softwood imports are going to be around one million m3 on an annualized basis.” IndustryEdge’s Tim Woods said. “Structural grades are probably going to total more than 85% of the total.”

IndustryEdge points to the closure of Carter Holt Harvey’s Morwell sawmill in late 2017 as one driver of the growing imports.

“Obviously reduced local capacity has had an effect, but it is not the only factor.” Mr Woods said. “Sustained growth in demand and what appears to be pretty shallow inventories are also having an effect. We know that the depreciated Australian dollar should be forcing prices up, but so far the recent increases have been pretty modest.”

Structural grades of sawn timber are a fundamental element of Australia’s building supply chain. Imports are around 20% of the market and may be more than that.

“Imports are required to ensure that wood is available for frames, trusses and other building products in the main.” Woods stated. “Without the imports, less frames would be made of wood, and that is in no one’s interest.”

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