U.S. hardwood lumber exports totaled a record 1.463 billion board feet in 2013, besting the previous one-year high set in 2006 by 11%. Record shipments to China and Vietnam, and the strongest shipments to Mexico in seven years, offset a 2% decline in exports to Canada and the slowest exports to Europe since 1986. It marked the fourth consecutive annual increase since exports bottomed out at 802 million board feet in 2009.
Approximately 60% of international buyers reported higher demand for North American hardwoods in February than in January, and nearly 80% said supplies further tightened. Meanwhile, our Hardwood Lumber Export Price Index increased 3% for the month—with Red Oak and White Oak prices climbing fastest—and was up nearly 30% for the 12 months ending in February.
International buyers’ reactions to higher prices and tighter supplies varied widely. Many purchased lower grades to control costs. Some purchased smaller volumes in the hope that prices would fall back in the future. Others tried to purchase larger volumes out of concern that prices would keep rising. Many looked for substitute species from other temperate regions but often found shortages and higher prices.