SYLVA WOOD 2017: Promoting wood: its trade, sustainability, beauty and value

Celebrating its third edition this year, the annual Sylva Wood in Shanghai sees new participation from timber companies, confirming the need for a specialised wood and wood products trade show in Asia.

“Where the world of wood meets” was the launch slogan for Sylva Wood at the inaugural event in 2015. From June 26 – 28, that became a reality as exhibitors from 13 countries participated, entirely focused on wood as a material.

American, Russian, Malaysian and local wood distribution companies were the leading groups of exhibitors followed by Scandinavian, European, Australian and Canadian suppliers to the huge Chinese market. Hardwoods, softwoods, wood-based panels and veneer all ranked strongly without the distraction of machinery and services that so many international shows suffer.

The annual show is also unique in that it attracts participation from furniture and flooring manufacturers from the region; it is here that anyone in the timber profession can stand to benefit from debate, dialogue and discourse; it is also Asia’s only specialised show.

The show is endorsed by the American Hardwood Export Council, American Softwoods, the Softwood Export Council, French Timber, Canada Wood and Shanghai Timber Trade Association.

“Once again I am heartened by the continued support from these wood associations. They have endorsed the show since its inaugural edition in 2015,” William Pang, managing director of Shanghai Pablo Exhibition Co Ltd, said.

He also acknowledged support from the Malaysian Timber Council, Quebec Wood Export Bureau and Smaland of Sweden.

This year, major players from the Russian timber industry also came, all 10 of them together forming a Russia pavilion. Some of them include Ilim Timber, Kastamonu, the Segezha Group and Sveza.

New participation from the newly-formed Dong Guan Veneer Alliance also boosted Sylva Wood’s reputation and relevance in a market as massive as China.

“There is no better place than China, one of the strongest players in the timber industry, to gather the world of wood together,” Mr Pang stressed.

Representatives from the Dongguan Veneer Alliance

In the first quarter of 2017, timber products coming through Zhangjiagang jumped over 60 per cent year-on-year to 130,000cbm. China now accounts for more than half of all U.S. hardwood lumber exported, according to latest statistics from AHEC.

Real estate sales in the first four months of 2017 climbed over nine per cent YoY while investment in residential projects rose by 10.6 per cent (down slightly from a month before), according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Clearly the world’s second largest economy is still making waves. There is still so much untapped potential in this part of the world.

More than a show

While many industry shows are useful, there is a lack of shows that focus strictly on timber. “Quite often we get lost in big shows among the machinery and all the other things,” Mike Snow, AHEC’s executive director, commented. “Sylva Wood may be a bit smaller but it brings people to talk about wood and only wood. It is very targeted and that’s what makes it so exciting for us and our member companies.”

This year, the American hardwoods pavilion featured more than 30 companies. Several others wanted to sign up but space had run out, Mr Snow said.


With new and increased exhibitors such as the Dongguan Veneer Alliance, visitors were also offered the luxury of variety and choice, “as well as an avenue to learn more about other types of products,” Mu Xiaolin, deputy general manager of Dongguan V.M. Trading, offered.

Others also took this opportunity to explain the market’s needs and preferences. For example, instead of just logs and lumber, buyers in China are now asking for wood components such as finger-jointed boards and semi-finished furniture products. This is the direction in which the Malaysian Timber Council is moving towards in future, according to Tan Ting Wai, Director of the Council’s Guangzhou office.

Furthermore, when it comes to OSB demand, Chinese buyers prefer boards that have big flakes, smooth surface, and a light yellowish colour for decorative purposes.

“The concept of a ‘wood material only’ attracts more serious buyers. There may be fewer enquiries but they are more valuable,” Pek Woei Shyong, Managing Director of Pioneer OSB, said.

Nikolay Ivanov, managing director of the Segezha Group, also added that Sylva Wood was a “platform for [establishing contact]” and that he was happy so far. On the first day, the Russian timber giant had 15 meetings with existing and new customers.


The expansive Russian Timber Industry pavilion

“One of the reasons for joining this show is to expand our market outreach efforts especially in the furniture and interior decoration business segment. We believe that Sylva Wood is a good platform to attract wood traders and furniture manufacturers. Here we can meet them and understand the potential of Canadian wood in this market segment,” Lance Tao, marketing and communications director of Canada Wood, said.

These characteristics—networking and education opportunity—define a good event, Lorna Christie, executive director of NHLA, offered. She was visiting for the first time. 

“There’s good marketing, audience identification, and understanding in this emerging market.”

Promoting wood

Over the first two days, the seminar programme celebrated wood, featuring high profile speakers sharing on “Wood in Architecture”. AHEC Executive Director Mike Snow encouraged the use of American hardwoods, an abundant and sustainable resource, for interior and exterior applications. Showing science-backed data, he also stressed that wood has a far lower carbon footprint than other apparently environmentally-friendly materials such as recycled plastic or aluminium.

Mr Tao also shared how the 18-storey Brock Commons was erected in an impressive four months. The world’s tallest wooden building in British Columbia featured Canada’s innovative building technology and drew much interest from the audience.

“People’s feedback has been very positive… We are trying to educate the market on innovative wood solutions and products from Canada here,” he continued.

International Wood Consultant Michael Buckley shared on oak in architecture; its properties, cut, colour and history. He also demonstrated the species’ beauty and versatility in many projects around the world.

Xu Fang, director of American Softwoods, presented on U.S. softwood applications in interior fit-outs. A predominantly Chinese audience benefitted from his experience in the species’ grading, and knowledge of wooden buildings, codes and standards in China.

Celebrating young design talent, the second Sylva – CX Joy Wood Design Awards received 39 submissions this year from students all over China. 17 shortlisted pieces of furniture—all in American hardwoods—were displayed at the company’s booth. Visitors were invited to vote and the winner was Yu Kebo from Guangdong Industry Technical College, with her lamp-and-vase creation made from white oak.

“What is interesting to see is that the finalists have made very good use of short pieces of wood, which is often discarded as waste. Utilising these short pieces is innovative and environmentally-friendly,” Mr Buckley, one of the Awards’ judges, commented. 

The Awards aimed to expand interest and knowledge on working with American hardwoods, the main material used by the Qingdao-based company.

NHLA organised an American hardwood grading class

American hardwood lumber grading classes held by the National Lumber Hardwood Association were again held, drawing a crowd of curious visitors.

The global timber industry will meet at Asia’s only specialised wood materials show again next year, June 25 – 27.