Hardwood lumber shipments from North America were relatively low in January due to the upcoming Chinese New Year. However, Mexico and some Middle Eastern markets were busier, and exporters booked sizeable orders for shipment to the Far East in February and beyond.
In November 2012, the last month for which trade data are available, U.S. hardwood lumber exports totaled 109 million board feet. This was 1% lower than in November 2011 and ended a 16-month run in which exports exceeded the same month a year earlier. Depending on the December numbers, 2012 was either the best or second-best year in history for U.S. hardwood lumber exports.
U.S. hardwood lumber shipments were higher in 2012 than in 2011 to each of the 11 largest Asian markets. January demand increased further to China, Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia, but declined slightly to Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
European buyers increased their purchasing in January, which is normal after the holidays. More noteworthy, however, is that two-thirds of surveyed exporters expect European business to be stronger in 2013—despite continued closures in Southern Europe’s distribution and manufacturing sectors.
U.S. exports to Latin America through November 2012 were up 8% from 2011, though these gains were mostly from Mexico. The Mexican economy and its demand for U.S. hardwoods is improving.
Through November, U.S. hardwood lumber exports showed substantial year-over-year growth to several Middle Eastern destinations, including Pakistan (137%), the United Arab Emirates (+11%), Turkey (50%) and Israel (10%). Saudi Arabian and Egyptian demand ticked up in January, although both markets remain slow relative to recent years.