Putin pushes back on Russian log exports
October 29, 2020 | 1:36 pm CDT

Softwood log exports from Russia have been declining for 15 years and could reach zero in 2022 if President Vladimir Putin’s new log export ban is implemented, according to WRI Market Insights 2020 from Wood Resources International.

In a recent statement, the Russian President Putin ordered the government to strictly control the exportation of roundwood and low-value forest products, and to clamp down on the illegal trade of logs, in his terms, “hard-hitting decriminalization of the industry.”

He also requested a “complete ban on shipments of unprocessed or roughly processed conifer and valuable hardwood out of Russia by January 1, 2022.” This statement would indicate that lower-value hardwood logs, such as birch pulp logs exported to Finland, may be excluded from the future export ban. 

To encourage domestic processing of Russian timber, Putin also wants to implement a government program of subsidized loans for investing in wood processing facilities, primarily in Siberia and Russia’s Far East, targeting the growing wood markets in Asia.

These industry loans would be available for facilities producing lumber and panels, and pellet manufacturers that predominantly use small-diameter logs.

If the log ban is enacted, it will be the end of Russia’s long-lasting role as one of the world’s largest exporters of softwood logs. Over many years, the country exported large volumes of wood raw material, predominantly to forest products manufacturers in Asia and Europe.

Softwood log export volumes peaked at 37 million square meters in 2006, but when log export tariffs were implemented in 2008, shipments fell dramatically and were down to only 8.5 million square meters in 2019. 

This year, the decline has continued and only an estimated six million square meters is likely to be exported, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly. A majority of the shipments have gone to China (about 75 percent) and Finland (10 percent) in the first half of 2020.

Russian hardwood log exports have fluctuated between 7 and 8 million square meters the past five years but are likely to fall in the next two years if higher-value logs such as oak and ash are banned for exports. 

China has sourced about 10-12 million square meters of softwood and hardwood logs annually from Russia for the past five years. Subsequently, the log export ban will reduce the future sourcing of both wood raw-material and processed products to China. See http://www.WoodPrices.com

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Karl Forth

Karl D. Forth is online editor for CCI Media. He also writes news and feature stories in FDMC Magazine, in addition to newsletters and custom publishing projects. He is also involved in event organization, and compiles the annual FDM 300 list of industry leaders. He can be reached at karl.forth@woodworkingnetwork.com.