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European, US demand for wood products increased global lumber trade in 2021


December 20, 2021
By Wood Resources International LLC

This year, the strong demand for wood products in Europe and North America has increased lumber trade during the first nine months of 2021 by about three per cent y-o-y. In ranking order, the export countries with the most significant increases in shipments include Finland, Canada, Germany, and the Czech Republic. Unsurprisingly, the countries with the most significant increases in imports in 2021 have all been in Europe and the U.S., where demand was high, while shipments to Asia and the MENA region have declined as their construction sectors weakened this year.

In the 3Q/21, overseas lumber imports to the U.S. fell by 13% q-o-q to 1.3 million m3. This decline followed a quarter where volumes reached their highest level in 15 years, with most shipments originating in Europe. Germany has been the dominant overseas lumber supplier to the U.S. for the past five years, with a market share of about 35%, according to the WRQ. The second and third largest suppliers to the U.S. have been Sweden and Brazil. European import prices fell by about 20% q-o-q in the 3Q/21 as U.S. domestic prices plunged.

Canada’s lumber exports fell by about 13% q-o-q in the 3Q/21 to less than nine million m3. In the spring of 2021, many sawmills in Western Canada shifted their overseas sales to the U.S. market, mainly due to the record-high lumber prices in the neighbouring country. Consequently, exports to China fell by over 50% in the first nine months of 2021 compared to the previous year. Canadian export prices to the U.S. in 2021 have tracked the U.S. domestic prices with unprecedented price increases in the first half of the year, followed by a substantial decline in the 3Q/21. Prices for Asia-bound lumber exports did not follow the U.S. trend but instead continued their upward movements during the fall.

China’s softwood lumber imports rose three per cent q-o-q in the 3Q/21 but were still substantially lower than in the same quarter last year. This year, the most significant declines in importation have been in shipments from Canada and Europe as exporters in the two regions shifted to the strong U.S. lumber market. However, despite the reduced import demand, Chinese import prices in the 3Q/21 reached their highest levels in at least 15 years, driven by higher lumber values in the European and North American markets.

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Sweden is the largest lumber exporter in Europe, shipping an all-time high volume of 14 million m3 in 2020. During the first eight months of 2021, shipments fell by six per cent y-o-y, predominantly because of lower wood demand in China, Egypt, and other MENA markets. Nevertheless, export volumes to the key markets in Europe have thus far been higher in 2021 than they were last year. The sales value has surged by 67% y-o-y and is on pace to reach over 5.0 billion dollars (€4.2 billion) for the entire year, reports the WRQ.

Finland, the second largest exporter of lumber in Europe, has increased shipments by 16% in 2021, predominantly driven by higher sales to European countries. On the other hand, shipments to China have plunged by 40% y-o-y, a noteworthy change as China once was Finland’s biggest market.

Are you interested in the worldwide wood products market? The Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ) is a 75-page report established in 1988 and has subscribers in over 30 countries. The publication tracks prices for sawlog, pulpwood, lumber, and pellets and reports on trade and wood market developments in most key regions worldwide. For more insights on the latest international forest product market trends, please go to www.WoodPrices.com


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