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Sawn softwood imports lift 23.5% year-on-year

Imports of sawn softwood lifted almost 108,000 m3 over the year-ended July 2021, rising a solid 23.5% as importers put their shoulder to the wheel to support the Australian market as best they could.

Inevitably, in a hyper-inflated demand situation in Australia and most of the rest of the world, imports were unable to predict, let alone keep up with the gap in demand from sawn softwood sales, try as they might.

Total imports for the year ramped up to 567,099 m3, a rise of 1.2% on the prior month as import growth appears to have slowed the momentum recorded earlier in the year.

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

Much as with the sales of locally produced sawn softwood, the import data needs some closer examination, beyond the total volume. As ever, we need to acknowledge that imports are almost entirely structural grades. That makes all the more sense in the current market, where structural timber has been in such short supply.

Perhaps the most significant note to provide is that over the year, imports lifted around 108,000 m3, but one grade alone delivered a little more than 100,000 m3 of the rise (92.9%). The huge lift in imports of dressed structural Fir or Spruce (108%) can be observed in the chart below, which shows monthly import volumes by grade.

Note that in a busy chart, we have deliberately accentuated the grade of greatest interest.

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

The rise on an annual basis of this important structural timber supply is impressive and contributed almost 34% of total imports for the year. Here we can see the countries of origin for the imports, with the chart showing annualised imports growing month-by-month.

It is plain to see that shipments from Germany have grown steeply, reaching 79,163 m3 (up 210%) on the year prior. From a lower base, Estonian shipments rose 142% to 28,428 m3 and supplies from Sweden rose 81% to 49,973 m3.

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

Despite incredibly heated markets, sawnwood production across Europe has continued to find volume to supply the Australian market. That has been more difficult than merely volumes suggest because prices in other markets – especially the US – have been little short of spectacular. Some prices quadrupled in the US in early 2021, but what about in Australia?

As the chart below shows, there is no doubt that average prices for this grade have risen along with the volumes. With the weighted average import price in July lifting to AUDFob480/m3, the average import price was 44% higher than a year earlier. In normal conditions, that would seem extreme, but its 44% not 440% as might have been the case in the US at the height of its market.

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

Higher import prices are literally the price that Australia pays right now to access global fibre resources to supplement its local supply.

Posted Date: October 7, 2021

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