Hardwood plywood is used in many U.S. finished goods including kitchen cabinets, recreational vehicles, mobile homes, flooring, and furniture, and a source of that plywood might be cut off due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
TimberCheck, a website covering the timber industry, estimates that 10% of its hardwood plywood in the United States originates directly from Russia.
In addition to sanctions by the EU banning lumber from Russia and Belarus, other groups are asking that U.S. and other countries ban lumber imports. In the Ukraine, more than 120 environmental rights groups have called for a ban on Russian and Belarussian timber in response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Both Russia and Belarus rely heavily on the export of timber and wood products,” said the Ukrainian Nature Conservation Group in a statement. “In 2021, the export of timber and wood products from the Russian Federation was US$13.9 billion.”
The UNCG said that most of the wood is being sold directly or indirectly to the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan and China. The wood is used to make buildings, paper, clothes and furniture, and to fuel power plants.
Imports dominant in the U.S. market
In 2019, about 54.4% of the hardwood plywood consumed by manufacturers in the United States was imported, according to Marc Barany of TimberCheck.
The U.S. consumed an estimated 4.5 million cubic meters (m3) of hardwood plywood. The U.S. produced an estimated 2.15 million m3 and exported 95,700 m3. So, U.S. production fewer exports totaled 2.05 million m3. To make up for the deficit, it imported 2.45 million m3. (To be exact 2,457,026 m3).
In 2019, Russia supplied 9.48% of hardwood plywood consumed in the U.S. market. The U.S. imported 426,871 m3 of hardwood plywood from Russia. About 97% of which were Birch plywood products.
In 2021, the U.S. imported 558,526 m3 of hardwood plywood from Russia. That’s a 30% increase from 2019. If U.S. consumption of hardwood plywood has grown 30% since 2019, then Russia’s share is likely to still be 10%. If U.S. consumption did not grow this fast, then Russia’s share may be higher today.
Either way, considering that the other leading hardwood plywood suppliers – Vietnam and Indonesia – ship large amounts of Russian Birch hardwood plywood, the amount of hardwood plywood in the U.S. originating from Russian forests is probably much higher than 10%," wrote Barany in his Timbercheck blog.
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