EU: Mixed results in softwood logs&lumber exports to China

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Following a 2013 when European sawmills almost tripled their softwood lumber shipments to China, it seems that in 2014 this trend was set to continue, though at a slower pace. On contrast, softwood log exports declined sharply. 

In 2014, Chinese economy has declined to its lowest rate of growth in 24 years, with the country's GDP registering a growth of only 7.4%, recording the slowest rate since 1990 and below the official target of 7.5%. Moreover, China's construction sector is also on a downward trend, with the Chinese government still searching for solutions to avoid a housing crisis. Between January and December, new homes sold across the country declined 7.8 percent from 2013 to 6.24 trillion yuan (US$1 trillion). By volume, about 1.05 billion square meters of new houses were sold in China last year, a year-on-year decrease of 9.1 percent. 

Despite the fact that the Chinese construction sector plummetted last year, China still continues to dominate the global logs&lumber trade and set a new record high in the consumption of imported softwood logs in 2014. Also, the Chinese forest products industry output value and trade reached US$ 848 billion and US$ 138 billion, up 11% and 9.5% respectively, as compared with 2013. 

Even though European sawmills are not major suppliers to the Chinese market, they've still managed to gain some market shares in the last years, especially in 2013, when European deliveries of softwood lumber more than tripled against the previous year. Conversely, China is now EU's sixth worldwide softwood lumber destination, being close to a share of almost 5% in the first eleven months of 2014. In softwood log terms, China is the first export destination (outside the European Union) for the EU member-countries.

However, in 2014, there are some mixed results in EU exports to China: softwood lumber shipments continued their upward trend and increased by 30%, while softwood log exports dipped by an overall -27%. 

According to the latest available Eurostat statistics, from January to November, the European Union has exported softwood lumber to China worth EUR 250,5 million (Jan.-Nov. 2013: EUR 193,1 million). Sweden overtook Finland as the main European exporter and stepped up deliveries to China by 73%. Finnish shipments cooled a bit over 2013 with an increase of only 7% and a value of EUR 76,5 million. Also German exports considerably rose by 25% up to EUR 50,5 million.

On contrast, EU's softwood log exports to China went well below the EUR 106,5 million value reached in January-November 2013, down to only EUR 77,9 million. Exports from the three major European suppliers France, Romania and Lithuania declined in the range of -32% to -39% (see table below). Some positive signals came from Estonia and Denmark, which managed to increase deliveries to China by about 50%, though at considerably lower levels than the first three. 

EU- Softwood logs exports to China in EUR Jan.-November 2013 Jan.-July 2014 Change in %
EU Total 106,867,419  77,960,490 -27%
France 30,095,630 20,575,820 -32%
Romania 29,478,950  18,962,110  -36%
Lithuania 23,508,290  14,238,130 -39%
Estonia 6,640,860  10,087,780  +52%
Denmark 2,829,630  4,452,620  +57%
EU-Others 14,314,060 9,644,030 -33%

Source: Eurostat (HS 440320)

EU- Softwood lumber exports to China in EUR Jan.-Nov. 2013 Jan.-Nov. 2014 Change in %
EU Total 193,187,569 250,548,491 +30%
Sweden 50,721,210  87,615,119 +73%
Finland 71,691,470  76,538,481  +7%
Germany 40,407,840 50,553,721 +25%
Latvia 5,648,240  10,888,410 +93%
Romania 9,142,000  7,893,760  -14%
EU-Others 15,576,810 16,420,030 +5%

Source: Eurostat (HS 440710)

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