U.S. hardwood lumber exports totaled 94 million board feet (MMBF) in December 2012, an 18% increase over December 2011. Total 2012 exports were up 10% from 2011 to 1.32 billion board feet, just 0.4% shy of the 2006 record. Exports to China and Vietnam set new annual records for the 3rd straight year. Exports to Indonesia also reached an all-time high, and shipments were at 4 to 6-year highs to other Top 10 destinations Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Japan and Thailand. Shipments to the Greater Middle East totaled a record 37 MMBF.
In February, hardwood lumber shipments from the U.S. were decent even though China was celebrating Lunar New Year for about half the month. In fact, loadings of China-bound containers increased in early February for arrival after the New Year and remained strong throughout the month. Buyers in Southeast Asia, Mexico and most other non-European markets reported good business, with Egypt and South Africa among the exceptions. Demand was fair in some European countries, but slow in many others. One exporter said that, in February, he saw “a welcome, steady and deliberate flow of new inquiries and orders for a broad variety of hardwood items, from a diverse number of countries, including Europe.”
Buyers in numerous markets, particularly China, showed more interest in value-added products like width-sorted lumber and ripped-to-width strips.