China could surpass U.S. as top wood buyer

Canada’s key export-support organization predicts China will surpass the United States as British Columbia’s top market for forest products within 12 years, if long-term trends hold.

“This is really about differential growth in the markets,” said Peter Hall, chief economist for Export Development Canada. “China has long and strong potential growth and the U.S. is a fully developed economy.”

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That projection appears to counter a short-term decline in lumber sales to China following the country’s meteoric rise in imports over the last 15 years.

After years of a provincial hard-sell in the country, China emerged as a major customer for B.C. forestry exports following the 2008 global recession, surpassing Japan as the province’s No. 2 market for lumber in 2009.

By volume, B.C.’s exports to China peaked in 2013 when timber companies sold 7.9 million cubic metres worth of processed wood to Chinese buyers, versus 13.6 million cubic metres to buyers in the U.S. market. However, by taking exports of raw logs, pulp and paper into account, the value of shipments to China have continued to climb. Raw log shipments to China in particular, by value, have risen 43 per cent over the past three years hitting $479 million in 2017. Log exports to the U.S. over the same period shrank 33 per cent to just $44-million worth of unprocessed timber in 2017.

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