Log trade in Baltic Sea region falls 10% in 2015

By Hakan Ekstrom, Wood Resources International LLC

The log market in the Baltic Sea is one of the most active markets in the world with softwood log trade accounting for over 20% of global trade, and shipments of hardwood logs reaching almost 29% of world trade of temperate hardwoods in 2015. Finland and Sweden are the major importing countries, but forest companies in Germany and Poland have also been importing substantial log volumes over the past five years.

In 2014, total log trade to the Nordic countries reached a six-year high of 14.3 million m3 after five years of consecutive increases. In 2015, total shipments fell over 10% mainly because of lower demand for softwood pulplogs, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ). Trade of softwood sawlogs on the other hand, reached its highest level since 2007 last year when 1.6 million m3 was imported primarily to sawmills in Sweden.

The major log trade flows in Northern Europe the past few years have been:

  • Norway to Sweden (softwood)
  • Latvia to Sweden (softwood and hardwood)
  • Russia to Finland (softwood and hardwood)
  • Estonia to Sweden (hardwood)

10 years ago, Russia exported about 7.5 million m3 of softwood logs to the Nordic countries but after the introduction of the country’s log export duties, shipments plunged, and over the past three years, volumes have been just over one million m3 annually. With the fall of Russian log exports, log exporters in the Baltic States stepped in and the region became the major log supplier of logs to sawmills and pulp mills in the Nordic countries and Germany. However, over the past four years, shipments of softwood logs have been in steady decline from 3.1 million m3 in 2011 to only approximately 1.3 million m3 in 2015, as reported in the WRQ.

It is interesting to note that during the same period, exports of hardwood logs from the Baltic States have fallen almost 30%, while Russia has become a more aggressive player as the weak Ruble has made Russian logs more competitive.


Image: Russian softwood logs/ Credit: Lesnaya Industriya Journal