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Raw wood exports – logs and chips

The volume of Australia’s log exports rose a very solid 31.4% for the year-ended February 2016, reaching 3.310 Mm3, their highest ever volume. Meanwhile, the other major raw wood resource, woodchips, experienced a more modest rise of 12.7% over the same period. Though both exports are barely transformed, they are dominated by different species and by very different intended end-uses.

As the chart below shows, since mid-2008, exports of logs have grown almost continuously. The data and chart also show that the record month for exports was December 2015, when exports totaled 402,850m3.

fig10

To go straight to the dashboard and take a closer look at the data, click here.

In virtually all months and over all time periods, log exports are dominated by softwood logs. To put that into context, for the year-ended February 2016, exports of softwood logs were recorded at 2,945,727 m3 (88.9%) of the total. Hardwood logs, which reached a record 359,035 m3, (11.1%) were a distant second.

Unlike woodchips, logs are destined (generally and in the main) for solid wood production.  Some are undoubtedly sawn and some hardwoods make their way into furniture markets, but increasingly, both softwood and hardwood logs are manufactured into wood panels, especially those involving veneers and plywood. The end-uses to which they are applied are virtually limitless, in the built and industrial environments.

Woodchip exports from Australia, conversely dominated by hardwoods, are almost entirely destined for the pulp and paper manufacturers of China and Japan. Though the rise in exports has been less pronounced than for logs over recent times, the growth has nonetheless, been very strong as the chart below displays.

fig11

To go straight to the dashboard and take a closer look at the data, click here.

Since mid-2013, woodchip exports have grown steadily, driven entirely by demand for hardwood chips for the manufacture of chemical pulp. Almost all of the growth can be attributed to China.

For the year-ended February 2016, hardwood chip exports were recorded at 5,327,048 bdmt* (88.4%), while exports of softwood chips amounted to 698,697 bdmt (11.6%) over the same period.

Almost all of the softwood chip is exported to Japan, ultimately destined to supply printing and communication papers. Hardwoods are increasingly destined for China (as well as Japan) where they are also likely to end up as printing and communication papers. However, the short, soft fibres of the hardwoods makes them particularly suited to tissue production, into which they are increasingly deployed.

Australia’s exports of raw wood are curious for several reasons, including the very different products that logs and woodchips are delivered to. Additionally, the curiosity of softwoods dominating log exports and hardwoods dominating chip exports continues and is set to remain unaltered long into the future.

* bone dry metric tonnes

Posted Date: April 26, 2016

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