US tropical hardwood imports soar
After two months of declining volumes, imports of sawn
tropical hardwood rose by 79% in March withal most
every type of wood showing gains. Because of newly
implemented US Department of Agriculture
categorisations beginning this year that no longer count
ipe and jatoba imports toward these totals, imports from
most countries appear to have dropped sharply from last
However, a closer look at the data suggests imports are
actually well ahead of last year. For example in March,
imports from Brazil rose 750%, imports from Cameroon
nearly quadrupled and imports from Ghana and the
Republic of the Congo each doubled.
While officially the USDA totals for the tropical imports
category show year-to-date imports down 40% from last
year, the data on the imports of various types support the
notion that imports are actually up in 2021.
Imports of sapelli more than doubled from February to a
level 31% higher than last March. Imports of acajou
d¡¯afrique more than tripled to a level 24% higher than
March 2020. And imports of ipe and jatoba also rose
sharply and are 61% and 81% higher, respectively, than
last March. If iIpe and jatoba are counted, imports are
actually up 60% in March and are ahead of 2020 by 13%
year to date.
In Canada, imports of sawn tropical hardwood rose 8% in
March, but are down 25% year-to-date. Canada¡¯s imports
from the United State, while gaining in March, are down
sharply so far this year.
Hardwood plywood imports are flat in March
US imports of hardwood plywood were flat in March,
declining by less than 1%. The volume coming in from
Ecuador, Cambodia, China, and Russia all rose while
imports from Indonesia and Malaysia contracted.
Despite the March decline, imports from Indonesia are up
62% year-to date over 2020. Imports for the year so far are
up 19% from this point last year.
Veneer imports stumble
After an encouraging gain in February, US imports of
tropical hardwood veneer fell back to the weak level seen
in January. Imports fell 38% in March to a level 45%
below that of the previous March. Year-to-date imports
are down 27% through March. Imports from Italy, which
lately have been extremely uneven from month to month,
were almost non-existent in March and are down over
50% for the year so far.
A rise of nearly 200% in March imports from Cameroon
and a gain in imports from India of more than 300%,
helped mitigate some of the loss. Even with the March
gains, imports from both India and Cameroon are down
37% year to date.
Hardwood flooring imports reach highest level in
nearly two years
US imports of hardwood flooring soared 32% in March to
its highest level since May 2019. Imports from Malaysia
more than tripled in March while imports from Indonesia
more than doubled. Imports from Brazil also remain
strong. Through March, year-to-date imports from Brazil
are up 222%, taking market share away from China and
Imports of as
sembled flooring panels also rose markedly
in March, up 23%. Imports from Indonesia and Vietnam
were both up by more than 60% and are both about double
last year¡¯s dollar amount through the first quarter of the
year. Imports from Thailand were up by more than 400%
in March but are still 11% behind 2020 year to date.
Imports from China, which had been doing well so far this
year, dropped by 49% in March, but were still ahead 64%
year-to-date. Overall imports are up 38% over last year
through the first quarter.
US moulding imports edge up
US imports of hardwood moulding rose 5% in March due
to increases in imports from Brazil and Canada. Imports
from Brazil gained 40% in March but were still less than
that of March 2020. Imports from Canada were up 19%
and are ahead 12% through the first quarter.
Meanwhile, imports from China and Malaysia were both
down sharply. Imports from China were down 38% in
March and are down about the same through the first
quarter. Although imports from Malaysia fell 26% in
March, they remain ahead 15% year-to-date through
March. Overall imports are up 8% year-to-date.
US wooden furniture imports back to over US$2 billion
After a long run of gains was broken in February, US
imports of wooden furniture picked up again in March,
gaining 18%. Imports climbed back above the US$2
billion mark for the month reaching US$2.05 billion.
Imports are up 39% over 2020 year to date through the
first quarter. Except for China, which only saw 2%
growth, imports from all major supplying countries rose
by more than 10% in March. Imports from Vietnam were
up 20% in March and are ahead by 56% year to date
Meanwhile, the overall US furniture market continues to
deal with supply backlog concerns. New orders in
February were up 34% over February 2020, marking the
9th straight month of large double-digit percentage
increases, according to the latest Smith-Leonard survey of
residential furniture manufacturers and distributers.
New orders were up for 94% of survey participants. While
shipments were up 18% over February 2020 and are now
up 13% year-to-date, new orders again exceeded
shipments. This led to more growth in backlogs, up 5%
over January and a whopping 184% over February 2020.
Cabinet Sales Surge
Cabinet sales were up 25.2% in March 2021 compared to
February, according to the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers
Association¡¯s (KCMA) monthly Trend of Business
Survey. Custom sales were up 21.5%, semi-custom sales
up 20.3%, and stock sales increased 29.6%.
Participating cabinet manufacturers reported continued
surges with overall cabinet sales up 17.9% for March 2021
compared to the same month in 2020. Custom sales are up
19.1%, semi-custom increased 20.3%, and stock sales
US switches gears, removes Vietnam from list of
The US Department of Treasury has removed Vietnam
from its list of currency manipulators, which could
indicate that under President Biden the US might not apply
tariffs or other restrictions on the country's imports due to
In October under the Trump Administration, the Office of
the US Trade Representative (USTR) initiated a Section
301 trade investigation onto Vietnam, believing the
country might be importing illegally harvested or traded
timber. The USTR also investigated whether the country
was intentionally undervaluing its currency.
The investigation concluded last month, with the USTR
finding that Vietnam was devaluing its currency and that
US commerce was being harmed as a result. The Treasury
Department also had claimed the country was intentionally
devaluing its currency. But now, for the four quarters
ending in 2020, the Treasury said it could not find
evidence that Vietnam manipulated its exchange rate.
Home builders call for removal of tariff to ease US
Among widespread reports of soaring lumber prices
forcing up the price of housing in the US, the National
Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is calling on the
Biden administration for some relief. NAHB Chairman
Chuck Fowke has urged the White House to ¡°temporarily
remove¡± the current 9% tariff on Canadian lumber ¡°to ease
Fowke also asked the White House to "bring together
interested stakeholders to hold a summit on lumber and
building material supply chain issues to identify the causes
and solutions for high prices and supply constraints."
In one of the first shots fired during the Trump trade wars,
the previous administration hit Canada in April 2017 with
tariffs of up to 24% on lumber. Late last year, the Trump
administration slashed those tariffs to 9%. An NAHB
analysis states that surging lumber prices alone have
pushed the price of an average new single-family home