Forestry | Ecotrope

The hotspot for West Coast timber: China

Ecotrope | Sept. 1, 2011 2:34 p.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:35 p.m.

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China’s appetite for U.S. logs and lumber continues this year, as illustrated by the latest report on exports from the West Coast. The U.S. Forest Service reported today that the West Coast exported 79 percent more logs and 83 percent more lumber in the first half of 2011 than in the first half of 2010. I made a couple handy charts to illustrate the dramatic difference.

Even more dramatic? Log exports from Oregon and Washington jumped 75 percent from the first quarter of this year (379 million board feet) to the second (505 million board feet).

More than 70 percent of the West Coast log exports went to China, while 14.6 percent went to Japan and 13.8 percent went to South Korea.

Douglas fir is the hottest ticket, accounting for 55.6 percent of the log exports; western hemlock made up 28 percent, spruce 11.1 percent and others 4.4 percent.

The total value: $393.8 million (at the ports of exportation).

Lumber exports were up by a larger percentage than log exports. The numbers were nearly 80 percent higher in the first six months of 2011 than they were in the same period of 2010.

There are a few ways to think about this trend (and I’m sure you can think of a few more): One, with the U.S. housing market still in the dumps, exports offer a way to keep some segments of the timber industry alive and kicking. Two, this is one of several examples of how Asia’s growing economy is influencing U.S. natural resources and could have a long-term affect on the Northwest environment (others that come to mind are the proposals for coal and natural gas exports). And three, although you see lumber exports increasing as well as raw logs, it’s important to note that raw log exports take potential business away from lumber mills in the U.S., which are already struggling because of the housing market crash.

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