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Sawn softwood imports stabilise

Australia’s imports of sawn softwood have stabilised over recent months, having been wound in over 2023, as importers worked to rebalance a seemingly over-stocked domestic market. Over the year-ended March 2024 imports, totalled 552,519 m3, down 45.9% on the previous year. The program of reductions has clearly ceased and the market has returned to what could become a growth cycle.

In March 2024, sawn softwood imports totalled 63,999 m3, the biggest March of the last six years, aside from the boom conditions that were evident in March 2022. The March 2024 result represented an increase over February of 14,705 m3 or 29.8%. The chart below shows March imports since 2019.

As previous issues of Stats Count have sought to illuminate, despite there being twenty-six sawn softwood import product categories, just four are major contributors to Australia’s import volume.

Not surprisingly it was these same four products which were the major contributors to the monthly increase in March 2024. Combined, they delivered 88.3% of the increased volume for the month, or 12,990 m3.

And where did the increased volume come from? Over the course of the last year – despite imports turning down sharply – two countries experienced solid increases in their supply.

Year-ended March, supply from Brazil was 18,501 m3 up 350% on the prior year and shipments from New Zealand totalled 116,425 up 4.4% over the same period. Brazil’s share of annual imports lifted from 0.5% to 3.3%, while New Zealand’s lifted from 13.6% to 21.1% – not bad in a falling supply.

Significantly, most of the supply increase from these countries appears to be associated with 4407.11.10.34, which has accounted for around half of the imports from both Brazil and New Zealand.

There is some prospect that imports are starting to move back up after the rebalancing of the last year. Certainly, ordering is already deep into December quarter deliveries. The details will not be known for months to come, but it appears on this evidence, the market may be near its bottom.

Posted Date: May 6, 2024

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