Lumber exports shift to U.S. as China sales slump

Asian demand for B.C. wood products peaked in 2013, analyst says China sales on pace for 50 per cent drop

Forests Minister Steve Thomson promotes oriented strandboard panel construction in China on his annual Asian trade mission

Wood products exports from Canada to Asia were down 18 per cent in the first six months of 2016, with the biggest decline being softwood lumber from B.C. to China, according to the Seattle-based Wood Resources International.

Lumber sales to China are on pace to drop by 50 per cent this year compared to 2014, as B.C. lumber producers direct their sales to a healthy U.S. lumber market, according to customs data tracked for the Wood Resources Quarterly (www.woodprices.com).

The latest edition notes that by value, 75 per cent of B.C.’s exports to Asia in 2015 and 2016 are in the form of lumber, while 77 per cent of exports from Washington and Oregon are logs.

Asian demand reached a record high in 2013, with China passing Japan as the largest importer of North American wood products in 2011. The B.C. and federal governments promote wood construction in China and Japan, and B.C.’s forest minister is required to conduct an annual trade mission to China, Japan and other Asian countries.

The shift in demand provides extra urgency for talks to renew the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber agreement that expired last year. B.C. sales are booming without the export cap that both Ottawa and Washington have agreed will be required.