Japan log and lumber imports from North America fluctuate due to inclement weather and forest fires

Japan imports of North American logs for the first half of the year was 1.3 million cbm, 8.5 per cent less than the same period last year; lumber gained 2.4 percentage points, at 1.09 million cbm.

The fall in log imports was due to increased buying last year; increased lumber buying this year, being due to a smaller volume bought in 2016. Compared to 2015 figures, log import was 6.8 per cent more and lumber, 4.8 per cent less.

The supply of Douglas fir and hemlock logs and lumber on coastal regions was tight due to log supply shortage by severe winter weather. SPF lumber supply from inland was steady but future supplies may be affected by forest fires in British Columbia. By supply source, logs from US were 881,142 cbm, 11.6 per cent less year-on-year. From Canada, it was down 2.4 per cent to 487,988 cbm.

Log prices in US have remained high, supported by active domestic market and expansion of log trade with China. The demand for Canadian logs is supported by active production of plywood mills in Japan but winter weather was also severe in coastal B.C. such that log prices also stayed up high.

By species, all (except hemlock) declined. Particularly red cedar and yellow cedar fell considerably because of a delay in harvest by foul weather and active demand in the U.S. market, which pushed log prices largely. Like log supply, lumber supply is also affected by heavy snow in winter, which hampered log harvest on high elevation.

The supply of SPF lumber from interior was not affected by snow but the prices climbed due to low inventories in Japan and an active domestic market in North America. Forest fires in interior B.C. would likely influence SPF supply in the second half.