Strong Growth in Finnish Softwood Lumber Exports to China – “Nordic” Means “Green”

September 16, 2016

Posted By Jyrki Salmi

Many policies in China, such as the green building and the two-child policies, are supporting the increased demand for Nordic and Finnish softwood lumber. Also the increasing environmental awareness among the growing middle class is favourable to the use of Nordic light-coloured lumber; everything Nordic is perceived as ”green”, i.e. environmentally friendly.

More than half of the Finnish softwood lumber is currently traded outside Europe, and the fastest-growing markets are in Asia and Africa. Exports to China started to grow since 2012, driven by spruce lumber which is used particularly in the rapidly developing children’s furniture industry. The other main uses of Finnish softwood in China are interior cladding, lumber for pressure treatment and window frames. Pine lumber, in addition to spruce, is also sold for the two latter uses.

Spruce lumber export volumes from Finland to China doubled during the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2015. There is growth potential, in addition to the present end uses, also in furniture frames, decking and other outdoor applications such as outdoor furniture, fencing and various structural applications as well as outdoor surfacing in housing industry. New products, such as thermowood and various engineered wood products for construction applications are also expected to see growth.

During the last decade China almost doubled its imports of coniferous round-wood. During the same period New Zealand tripled its export volumes and became, at the global level, the leading exporter of coniferous logs, followed by Russia, USA and Canada. Russian log export volumes at global level have declined drastically, due to the excessive export tariffs. Exports from USA and Canada have increased.

Canada has been a major source of supply of coniferous sawn wood to both the USA and China. However, Canadian exports have been recently redirected to the USA thanks to rebounding of housing starts in the country, and Russia has become the main source of coniferous lumber imports to China, thanks to its strong competitive position due to the low exchange rate of the rouble. The Russian lumber is used mainly in construction industry, whereas the higher quality lumber from Finland and Sweden is mainly used in furniture, carpentry and other more demanding end uses. The largest softwood lumber importers are the USA, China and Japan.

We participated in the 6th China Global Wood Trade Conference in Wuhan from 13 to 14 September 2016. I also participated in a panel discussion on the trends in softwood lumber trade. Please find my presentation on the Role of the EU and Finland in Global Log and Sawnwood Markets below. Wuhan Global Wood Trade Conference had more than 350 participants from China, Canada, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine, Uruguay and USA.

The presentation, Role of EU and Finland in Global Log and Sawnwood Markets, can be downloaded from here.

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Jyrki Salmi

Senior Advisor

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