American hardwood lumber exports to Asia surge 17% in 2017

American oak veneer being prepared in a factory in Vietnam. Image: Turnstone Singapore


The full year of 2017 saw the largest exports ever on record for American hardwoods, with an increase of 17 per cent by value for lumber over 2016, according to new data from the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC). That gives the American hardwood sawmilling industry a grand total of US$2.64 billion of lumber shipments sent all over the world in 2017.

China’s appetite for American hardwoods continues to grow. U.S. producers saw a massive 26 per cent increase in lumber exports by value and 20 per cent by volume, bringing China’s total import to over US$1.5 billion last year. That means 57 per cent of all lumber shipped by value was headed to China.

Worldwide log exports are up three per cent by volume and 18 per cent by value on the year, but a shift in consumption has led China to purchase a larger share of this figure than in previous years. Red oak log exports to China effectively doubled from 2016 to 2017.

Vietnam, now the second largest export market for American hardwood lumber outside North America, has continued its consistent growth. Lumber exports were up 22 per cent by value and 18 per cent by volume in 2017. Shipments of lumber amounted to 444,862 cubic metres with tulipwood (yellow poplar) registering 27 per cent gain in volume accounting for 258,586 cubic metres or 58 per cent of Vietnam’s import of American hardwood lumber.  White oak was the second species followed by red oak showing its best performance yet – up 22 per cent albeit from a small base.  Both cherry and maple lumber recovered some of their previous import levels.

SEA Countries

Top 3 Lumber Species

US$ in million (YoY% change)


Yellow Poplar ($81.6 million, 26%);

White Oak ($46.1 million, 12%);

Red Oak ($16.8 million, 35%)


White Oak ($10.8 million, 28%);

Walnut ($4.1 million, 37%);

Yellow Poplar ($3.2 million, 31%)


White Oak ($12.9 million, 14%);

Walnut ($4.2 million, 43%);

Red Oak ($1.5 million, 2%)


White Oak ($7.9 million, 14%);

Yellow Poplar ($4.1 million, 4%);

Ash ($2.8 million, -16%)


Yellow Poplar ($0.36 million, 252%);

White Oak ($0.28 million, 35%)

Walnut ($0.13 million, -51%)


White Oak ($0.18 million, 1%)

Red Oak ($0.067 million, -14%);

Ash ($0.051 million, -16%)


Import volumes by Malaysia recovered by 11 per cent with white oak, walnut and tulipwood most popular. Thailand maintained its consumption with white oak and tulipwood also leading.  Indonesia eased slightly by three per cent in volume and the Philippines grew by 62 per cent but remains a very small importer of American hardwood lumber.  Overall Southeast Asia imported over US$0.26 billion in value – largely attributed to Vietnam. Log exports to the region accounted for US$49 million, up six per cent.

John Chan, AHEC’s regional director, said “This is a most satisfactory result and underpins our determination to support the markets in China and Southeast Asia with continued promotion. In the case of the latter we would like to see an increase in consumption of red oak as one of the most available hardwoods in the USA and highly suitable species for furniture.”