North American hardwood lumber exports were quite strong in January. Chinese and Vietnamese demand was quite high despite the approach of the Chinese New Year and Tet holidays. Taiwanese demand also increased; and Japanese purchasing was steady. Even though shipments to Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia have declined in the last year, Asia still accounts for 5 of the 10 largest global markets for U.S. hardwoods.
European purchases of North American hardwoods also ticked up in January, with British and German markets showing more promise. “European business is slowly coming alive,” said one exporter, and others said that inquiries and orders increased from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia. Several contacts believe European markets would have grown faster last month if White Oak was not so scarce.
While some Mexican buyers said January started slow, most were pleased with how it turned out, as were U.S. shippers. Mexico’s 16% increase in lumber purchasing in 2013 was shared broadly across a range of species. Most notably, Red Oak and Hickory shipments to Mexico jumped by more than 40%. In January, Middle Eastern and African demand crept up, as some markets reemerged that had been quiet.
North American hardwood supplies continue to lag global demand. One exporter explained, “Buyers are not getting all the lumber they need and are trying to buy from new sources, but the pipeline contains no excess lumber to help them.”