The struggle to meet China’s future wood demand

Wood imports to China will inevitably increase in years to come as China struggles to meet its huge wood demand along with juggling its economic and social evolution, and insufficient forestry development.

A logging ban is already in place for some of the Mainland’s leading areas, especially in three north-eastern provinces. And by 2017, China will advance its Natural Forest Protection Program and phase out all commercial logging of natural forests – all state-owned forests will ceased next year and privately-owned land by end of 2017.

The bans will reduce domestic logging output by 50million m3 annually. At the moment, China has 198 million hectares of natural forests, of which 127 million hectares are under the administration reservations since the launch of the Natural Forest Protectoin Program in 1998.

The natural policies will result in an even wider gap between wood demand and the lack of supply to satisfy the demand with its own resources. And so, the country’s reliance on foreign imports of timber is set to increase.

As more and more countries across the globe ban log exports, China lumber imports is set to grow in the upcoming years. Currently, Chinese log imports is estimated to grow to 82 million m3 by 2020, while lumber imports around 52 million m3.

And with the commercial logging ceased entirely, Chinese wood imports (logs and lumber) may reach 180 to 200 million m3 by 2020.

Countries where China imports valuable hardwood, such as Southeast Asia and Africa, will likely impose export bans in the following years too. However, the Chinese domestic investment and consumption of valuable hardwoods is still strong.

According to the Chinese customs import data in 2013, the total imports of Mahogany in 2013 hit a volume of 3,196,000 m3 and was worthed 38.06 billion yuan.

In 2014, Chinese imports of Mahogany grew to 4,693,000 million m3 and 61.78 billion yuan; an increase of 46.8% in volume and 62.3% in value as compared to the previous year. There is no sign of a decline in the Chinese demand for valuable hardwoods in the near future too.

The current Chinese timber import channels are expected to modify according to some factors: such as the fight against illegal logging, the RMB’s exchange rate and others – leading to the diversification of China’s timber import from origin countries.

In 2013, some of China’s largest logs exporters (larger than 500,000 m3) – Ukraine, Myanmar, the United States, Australia, France and New Zealand – recorded the highest surges; in order, 199%, 57%, 54%, 42%, 35% and 33%.

Chinese lumber imports from Russia, the U.S., Thailand, Chile, the Philippines, Finland, Sweden increased by 13.0%, 16.1%, 25.5%, 64.4%, 47.0%, 156.3% and 223.3%.

During the Chinese 13th economic plan (2016-2020), the main sources for logs imports will be formed by Russia, Ukraine, as representatives of Europe; New Zealand and Australia; the U.S. and Canada.

The largest lumber imports from Europe will come from Russia and Finland; the U.S. and Canada; and Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines from Southeast Asia.

Source: Forestry Expo Co NZ