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China log imports recover in late 2012

Log imports to China were off to a slow start in 2012 but in the second half of the year, shipments picked up with New Zealand and the U.S. gaining the biggest market shares, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly.


February 4, 2013
By John Tenpenny

The Chinese domestic log market also heated up, with log prices reaching record high levels.

Total imports in the second half of 2012 were up 9%, but the increase was not equally distributed between supplying countries. Shipments from New Zealand and the U.S. were up 29%and 20%, respectively, while Russian exports to China fell 9% in the second half of 2012 as compared to the first half of the year.

Log imports for the full year were down 15% from 2011, which was the first year-over-year decline since 2008. From 2008 to 2011, China’s imports increased by as much as 70% to a record 30 million m3 in 2011. Despite the decline in 2012, the total import volume was still the second highest on record. And for the month of December, there have never been more logs unloaded in Chinese ports than in the December of 2012.

The most dramatic shift in log supply sources for China over the past few years has been the diminished exports from Russia and the sharp increase in log volumes entering from New Zealand. Just five years ago, China imported as much as 21 million m3 of softwood logs from Russia and only 1.2 million m3 from New Zealand. In the second half of 2012, the two countries shipped about 4.8 million m3 each.

The average import value of New Zealand Radiata pine in the fourth quarter of 2012 was up a few dollars from the previous quarter, reaching the highest level seen since the third quarter of 2011, while the average value for most other species remained unchanged in the last quarter of 2012.

Domestic log prices in China on the other hand, continued their upward trend with Chinese fir log prices being up 13% from the fourth quarter of 2011 to the fourth quarter of 2012 to reach an all-time high, according to the WRQ. Prices for other commonly used species such as Mongolian pine, larch, poplar and birch were also at record high levels during the fourth quarter of 2012.

Global pulpwood and timber market reporting is included in the 52-page quarterly publication Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ). The report, established in 1988 and with subscribers in over 25 countries, tracks sawlog, pulpwood, lumber and pellet prices, trade and market developments in most key regions around the world. Visit: www.woodprices.com.