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Overview of wood and wood products imports and exports in 2020

1. Wood imports

In 2020, China’s imports of logs and sawn timber collectively totaled 107.573 million m3(log volume), a drop of 5.2% from last year; imports value reached US$16.04 billion, a year-on-year decrease of 11.8%, and the average unit price was US$149 per cubic meter, a decrease of 6.9%. In general, the downward trend has slowed down.

Except for Europe and Asia, all other regions show a decrease or remain flat. The increase in imports of European timber was due to the large amount of timber harvested from forest affected by diseases and insect pests. The increase in imports of Asian timber mainly because of the growth of 23.2% of imported Japanese cedar logs.

Port prices remained stable in 2020, but rose rapidly in the last month. It is expected that it will gradually calm down after April, and there is not much room for further increase.

1) Coniferous wood

Coniferous logs: the total imports of coniferous logs in 2020 reached 46.856 million m3in 2020, with an average unit price of US$117 per cubic meter, an increase of 2.9% and decrease of 6.5% respectively. From the perspective of sourcing regions, except for the growth of coniferous logs imported from Germany, the Czech Republic and Japan, imports from all other regions declined, but the decrease has slowed down from the previous month.

Main sourcing countries of coniferous logs include:

Coniferous logs

2020

2019

±%

New Zealand

1614.84

1763.88

-8.45%

Czech Republic

337.71

229.1

47.41%

Germany

998.21

380.43

162.39%

Rest of Europe

180.04

204.88

-12.12%

Russia

442.96

580

-23.63%

United States

261.71

302.64

-13.52%

Australia

419.82

427.26

-1.74%

Canada

119.58

235.52

-49.23%

Others

310.76

430.66

-27.84%

Total

4685.63

4554.37

2.88%


Due to serious coniferous forest pests, large scale of logging is required in Europe. It is estimated that the damage to European spruce will reach 500 million m3 by 2024!

For the past five years, the forest sector and wood processing companies in central European countries have been in the process of fighting against the continuous damage of wood due to climate change. This is mainly caused by the summer drought and the infestation of bark beetles. Only in the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany, about 250 million m3 of wood have been damaged.

Based on past disaster development processes, published forecast reports and a large number of expert discussions, this number will reach its peak during 2019-2021. Even assuming that the disaster is slowly receding, in the next five years, the damaged wood is expected to reach 500 m3, and in the next 10 years, the amount of damaged wood will accumulate to nearly 750 million m3.

This year, Europe’s exports of coniferous logs to China have increased significantly. Among them, the import volume of German coniferous logs was the largest, totaling 9.982 million m3, an increase of 162.4% year-on-year, accounting for more than 60% of European coniferous logs exported to China, and making up 21.3% of China’s import market of the coniferous logs; the market share increased by 13%, 2.2 times that of Russia’s export of coniferous logs to China.

Due to the large volume and low price of European coniferous logs, it has impacted China’s import market of coniferous logs from Russia, North America, and New Zealand. This year, China’s imports of Russian coniferous logs have dropped by 23.6% (partly affected by Russian policy), and China’s imports of coniferous logs from Canada, U.S. and New Zealand have declined by 49.2%, 13.5% (related to the strong demand in North America), and 8.4% respectively.

China’s imports of coniferous logs from New Zealand accounted for 34.5% in 2020, a decrease of 4.2% compared with 38.7% from last year. Coniferous logs imported from Europe in the second half of 2020 have exceeded New Zealand logs.

Since November 2020, China’s import of radiata pine from Queensland, Australia has been suspended due to the pandemic, with a decline of 1.7% throughout the year. It is expected that the supply of Australian radiata pine logs will be greatly reduced in the future.

The China-Europe Railway Express has promoted the timber supply chain. Coupled with lower prices, European spruce pests may change the supply pattern of coniferous logs in China.

As the inventory declines and expected supply decrease, the price of coniferous logs is expected to face some upward pressure, but there is only a small room for increase.

Main sourcing countries of coniferous sawn timber imported by China include:

Coniferous sawn timber

2020

2019

±%

Russia

1479.35

1702.44

-13.1%

Canada

276.66

439.09

-37.0%

Finland

96.98

123.97

-21.8%

Sweden

91.46

72.77

25.7%

Germany

94.51

69.14

36.7%

Ukraine

103.47

83.92

23.3%

Belarus

70.82

29.52

139.9%

Other European countries

77.67

47.65

63.0%

Chile

56.41

65.51

-13.9%

United States

30.5

31.36

-2.7%

Other countries

104.25

100.97

3.2%

Total

2482.08

2766.34

-10.3%


Supplies from Russia and Canada, the two main sourcing countries of China’s imported coniferous sawn timber, both dropped sharply, a year-on-year decrease of 13.1% and 37% respectively. However, Russian coniferous sawn timber still accounts for 60% of China's imported coniferous sawn timber, dominating for 6 years. Due to various factors such as resource problems, increased demand in the North American market, increased shipping costs, the impact of low-priced European pest affected wood, and the inability of Canadian sawn timber to meet the needs of Chinese market in time, the proportion of Canadian sawn timber in the Chinese market has dropped significantly.

In 2020, imports of European coniferous sawn timber was 5.439 million m3, an increase of 25.3%, of which imports from Sweden, Germany, Ukraine and Belarus increased by 25.7%, 36.7%, 23.3%, and 139.9% respectively. The main driven force is the forest pests in Europe.

Finland and Sweden in Northern Europe were forced to sell their coniferous sawn timber at a much lower price affected by the low price in other European countries, a drop of 9.9% and 10.8% respectively. In 2020, the volume of imported Finnish coniferous sawn timber fell by 21.8%, while imports from Sweden increased significantly by 25.7%, and the quantity is close to that of Finland. It is reported that the decrease in Finland’s exports is also related to the strike of forestry machinery workers.

2) Broadleaf wood

Broadleaf logs: In 2020, 12.64 million m3of broadleaf logs were imported, with an average unit price of 232 US$/m3, a year-on-year decrease of 16.8% and 9.4% respectively. Among them, tropical broadleaf logs made up 8,581 million m3, a year-on-year decrease of 13.4%, and tropical logs accounted for 67.9% of the total imported broadleaf logs. The temperate broadleaf logs reached 4.059 million m3, accounting for 32.5%. Temperate broadleaf logs mainly come from Russia, Europe, the United States and Canada. Tropical broadleaf logs mainly come from Africa, accounting for 25.2%, and Papua New Guinea and Solomon (the last two take up 53.8% collectively).

Main sourcing countries of broadleaf logs include:

Broadleaf log

2020

2019

%

Papua New Guinea

260.69

326.51

-20.2%

Russia

191.18

175.23

9.1%

Solomon

200.95

229.62

-12.5%

Equatorial Guinea

24.51

66.09

-62.9%

U.S.

72.29

66.69

8.4%

Cameroon

43.5

51.36

-15.3%

Australia

36.69

54.45

-32.6%

Germany

31.18

43.36

-28.1%

Republic of the Congo

58.23

64.51

-9.7%

France

38.61

41.44

-6.8%

Others

306.13

399.84

-23.4%

Total

1263.96

1519.1

-16.8%


In 2020, due to the impact of the pandemic, the domestic decoration, furniture, flooring and wooden door industries showed a downturn trend. Except Russia and U.S., China’s imports from other countries have declined.

In 2020, the average port unit price of imported broadleaf logs was 232 US$/m3, a year-on-year decrease of 9.4%. The price remained generally stable throughout the whole year.

Broadleaf sawn timber: China’s imports of broadleaf sawn timber reached 9.0362 million m3 in 2020, with an average unit price of 364 US$/m3, a drop of 4.8% and 5.9% respectively. Among them, tropical broadleaf sawn timber reached 6.5947 m3, accounting for 73%. The main sourcing countries of imported broadleaf sawn timber include:

Broadleaf sawn timber

2020

2019

%

Thailand

354.85

359.23

-1.2%

U.S.

133.84

131.8

1.5%

Russia

110.3

131.76

-16.3%

Gabon

57.08

54.65

4.4%

Vietnam

10.89

12.94

-15.8%

Philippines

32.16

37.86

-15.1%

Indonesia

17.45

18.79

-7.1%

Malaysia

14.45

20.68

-30.1%

Romania

20.03

23.65

-15.3%

Germany

13.69

16.59

-17.5%

Others

138.88

141.61

-1.9%

Total

903.62

949.56

-4.8%


Among the imported broadleaf sawn timber, Thai rubber wood panel reached about 3.5 million m3, with an unit price of 268 US$/m3, accounting for 39.3% of the total imported broadleaf sawn timber. Due to the recession in the furniture industry, imported rubber wood panel has a year-on-year decrease of 1.2%, and a drop of 7.3% for the unit price.

Gabon is the largest exporter of sawn timber in Africa. In 2020, it exported 570,800 m3 to China, a year-on-year increase of 4.4%. The unit price dropped by 12.2%. Gabon's sawn timber exports accounted for 60.6% of Africa's total, and its proportion has been increasing year by year.

Generally, the price of imported broadleaf sawn timber remained stable in 2020.

2. Wood products exports


Exported wood products volume

Unit

2020

2019

%

Plywood

10,000m3

1048.73

1029.48

1.9%

Bamboo/wood flooring

10,000 tons

20.35

20.11

1.2%

Wooden door

10,000 tons

32.42

36.41

-11.0%

Wooden furniture

10,000 pieces

27403.02

24151

13.5%

Wood framed seat

10,000 pieces

11257.64

11181.7

0.7%


The export of wooden furniture and seats accounted for nearly 60% of the total export value of wood products, and the wood-based panel accounted for about 14.5% of the total. Above two categories took up 80% of the export value. In the past, the export of wooden furniture, seat and plywood heavily rely on the American market. Changes in China-U.S. relation have had a great impact on the export of wooden products. In 2017, the export of wooden furniture and seats to the United States accounted for 40.9%, and this year has dropped to below 30%. However, the proportion of exports to Europe, Asia, the United Kingdom and Japan has increased, and the exporting countries have begun to be scattered. Due to the pandemic, the output of physical furniture companies in many countries has declined.

In addition, we shall pay more attention to the South America, Middle East and Africa market in the future, to adjust the export direction of wood products such as furniture, plywood, etc.


Destinations of Chinese wooden furniture and seat

% in 2020

% in 2019

% in 2017

U.S.

29.2%

35.3%

40.9%

U.K.

6.3%

6.4%

5.5%

Japan

8.2%

6.5%

5.4%

Asia (exclude Japan)

24.0%

21.9%

24.2%

Europe (exclude U.K.)

14.5%

13.2%

12.8%

Others

17.7%

16.7%

11.1%

Total

100.0%

100%

100%


Plywood is the second largest exported wood products after furniture. For many years, China’s exports of plywood have ranked first in the world. However, the exports of plywood have shown negative growth since 2019. In the first three quarters of 2020, the exports of plywood decreased by 7.8%. But it shows a positive growth of 1.2% throughout the whole year. Vietnam’s plywood exports have developed rapidly in recent years, with a growth of 14% in the first half of 2020. We shall pay attention to adjusting the direction of the plywood industry to improve product quality and added value. Otherwise, to compete with Vietnam, we have no advantage in raw material and labor costs.

3. Export trend of imported wood and exported wood products in 2020

During the pandemic, especially in the first quarter, production companies faced reduction or cancellation of orders, blocked logistics, shortage of employees, the confidence in the market is generally low. As the resumption of work and production proceeded in an orderly manner, the pressure was reduced. As can be seen from the above tables, the trend of China’s imports of timber and exports of wood products in 2020 is improving.




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