ROME - Major wood products production showed steady growth worldwide in 2013, the fourth consecutive year of increase, says new data from the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization.

Increases were driven by wood pellet biofuel, and by production of industrial roundwood, sawnwood, and wood-based panels, all of which have fully recovered from the economic downturn in 2008-2009.

Competition for wood fiber from one source - global production of pulp and paper - is declining, as  China's readers switch to electronic publishing from traditional printing processes.

Wood production in 2013 exceeded the pre-recession level of 2007 in all product groups, except for sawnwood. Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Caribbean and Northern America have seen the fastest recovery in wood production. Europe slowed down in 2012 and has yet to recover, with demand for industrial roundwood and wood-based panels falling in some areas.

Wood pellet production soared to an all time high in 2013, as bioenergy policies and consumption targets in Europe grew wood pellet demand by 12 percent in 2013, to 22 million tonnes. Over half of this  was traded internationally.

Markets for wood pellets are dominated by Europe and Northern America, which accounted for almost all global production (62 percent and 34 percent respectively) and consumption (81 percent and 15 percent respectively) in 2013. Trade in pellets from Northern America to Europe, mainly the UK, also doubled in 2013 from the previous year.

China in 2013 overtook a number of other major countries in different product groups, beating Canada in sawnwood production, and the United States of America in sawnwood consumption. China buys imports its logs and sawnwood; imports surged by 18 percent to record levels in 2013.

Production of wood-based panels 

Global wood-based panel production surged to a new record: 358 million cubic metres - up 7.8 percent from 2012 and 35 percent from 2009. Wood-based panels were the only product category that did not contract during the recent recession and their production has been growing steadily. This is due to rapid and consistent growth in the Asia-Pacific and Latin America and Caribbean regions, where production of panels has increased by 59 percent and 23 percent, says the United Nations report.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.