Wood Products Prices
Dollar Exchange Rates of 25th
Japan Yen 130.22
Reports From Japan
Rising prices, currency fluctuations and
constraints hold back recovery
The Cabinet Office monthly report for January says that
while the economy is picking up moderately on the back
of activity in the services sector some weaknesses have
emerged. Exports to China are yet to recover but the report
has a positive outlook for personal spending as the impact
of covid on travel and other services is easing.
The report warns of downside risks including rising prices,
currency fluctuations, supply chain constraints and China's
Biggest ever trade deficit
Japan recorded its biggest annual trade deficit in 2022 as
higher energy and raw material imports, along with the
yen’s depreciation, drove up costs. The value of imports
jumped 39% led by crude oil, coal and liquefied natural
gas while exports grew only 18% according to a Ministry
of Finance report.
The latest trade data underscores how dependent
on raw material and energy.
Re-classification of COVID-19
The government is discussing a change in policy to lower
the classification of COVID-19 from the current infectious
disease ranking of Category II, the second-highest, to
Category V which includes seasonal influenza. Ministers
ares expected to consider the specifics of reclassification
along with relaxing mask guidelines.
Certain policies would change if the classification was
lowered to Category V including that the government
would no longer be required to cover expenses for medical
bills. The government is expected to continue covering
medical expenses using public funds but this will be
phased out. According to the Ministry of Health the
number of new infections is on a downward trend.
Wage increase the only solution
The continual increases in food and non-perishable goods
show no signs of abating which is bad news for the
economy as household wage earners are still stuck without
meaningful wage growth after many years. Prices for food
saw the steepest year-on-year rise in more than 41 years in
late 2022 even outpacing increases during the bubble
economy period in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Bank of Japan policy moves causing turmoil
The stated aim of the Bank of Japan (BoJ) is to stabilise
the financial market but recently it has been accused of
causing turmoil and distrust. In December last year, the
BoJ revised its policy to raise the long-term interest rate
cap to "improve market functions" according to the BoJ
governor. This distrust has been fueled by unconvincing
explanations from the BoJ that the decision to raise the cap
was "not a rate hike."
Since the spring of 2022, while central banks in Europe
and the United States have raised interest rates to curb
inflation, the BoJ stuck to its easy monetary policy on the
grounds of underpinning the economy. This has spurred a
weakening of the yen and a rise in prices. The BoJ's
inflation forecast for this fiscal year is 3%, surpassing its
price stability target of 2%.
An editorial in the Mainichi newspaper says” the monetary
policy must be thoroughly examined including the
legitimacy of its goals”.
Policy makers haunted by abandoned home
There are millions of abandoned homes in Japan, many of
which are a danger to the public. The government is trying
to address this problem through a revised tax credit
programme to encourage property owners to renovate or
demolish such properties but Japanese demographics are
working against any solution.
As Japanese society ages and the population declines the
stock of abandoned homes will rise.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs most recent
survey, nationwide empty homes accounted for almost
14% the total housing stock. The Nomura Research
Institute projects this will rise to 32% by 2038 if the issue
cannot be resolved.
A private survey found many people are unsure what to do
with their childhood home when uninhabited as their
parents had died.
Many old homes are left standing because relatives
want to “part with” their childhood memories, their
parents asked them to retain the houses or it was too
difficult or expensive to clear everything left in the houses,
the group said.
In 2015 a Vacant Houses Special Measures law went into
effect with the aim of reducing the growing number of
unoccupied homes. Under this law, local authorities can
tear down houses that are on the brink of collapse, even if
they cannot locate the owners.
The government has long stuck to its policy of giving
preferential treatment in the form of mortgage tax break to
buyers of newly-built housing but it has until now ignored
the issue of what to do if those homes are eventually
Consumer demand for discretionary items such as
furniture continued to be severely affected by exchange
rate issues, unprecedented inflation and rising costs of
The downward trend in the value of imports since
reflects the current depressed state of the market for
wooden furniture in Japan. The least affected segment of
the market is that for wooden office furniture.
October 2022 wooden office furniture imports (HS
Wooden office furniture shipments to Japan from
manufacturers in China accounted for 87% of the value of
all imports of HS 940330 in October, little changed from
the value of shipments in September. Poland and France
together made up a further 7% of the value of October
imports. The value of imports from these two suppliers
was down compared to a month earlier.
The big surprise was the steep decline in the value of
shipments from Vietnam. Year on year, October shipments
of HS 940330 to Japan were down slightly with only
shippers in China maintaining the value of exports.
October 2022 kitchen furniture imports (HS
The top shippers of wooden kitchen furniture to Japan in
terms of value in October were the Philippines, accounting
for 47% of the value of total October arrivals and up from
the previous month and Vietnam (35%) but down slightly
month on month. Three other suppliers, China, Germany
and Italy together accounted for just less than 10% of
The value of October 2022 imports of wooden kitchen
furniture was around 30% higher than in Ocober 2021 but
month on month there was a drop in the value of
September wooden bedroom furniture imports
After three consecutive month declines in the value of
Japan’s imports of wooden bedroom furniture (HS940350)
there was a slight upward correction in October which
came in some 53% higher than in Ocober 2021.
Shipments of HS 940350 from China and Vietnam
dominated Octber imports accounting for over 90% of the
value of imports for the month. Shipments from China
were down compared to a month earlier while those from
Vietnam rose month on month. The other shippers of note
in October were Thailand and Malaysia.
Trade news from the Japan Lumber Reports
The Japan Lumber Reports (JLR), a subscription trade
journal published every two weeks in English, is
generously allowing the ITTO Tropical Timber Market
Report to reproduce news on the Japanese market
precisely as it appears in the JLR.
For the JLR report please see:
Projection of import wood products
The Japan Lumber Importers Association disclosed a
projection of imported wood products for the first half of
Volume of imported lumber will be decreased by 25%
from the first half of 2022 and importers adjust supply and
demand. Volume of European lumber, glulam and Russian
lumber will be decreased by 30% from the same periods in
Total volume of lumber and glulam in the first half of this
year will be 2,455,000 cbms, 25.8% less than the same
periods in last year. It will be about 852,000 cbms
In the second half of 2022, the volume was 2,771,000
cbms and it will be 316,000 cbms lower in the first half of
this year. Total volume during October, 2022 to June,
2023 will be 5,226,000 cbms and this is 741,000 cbms
lower than the 2021’s result. One of the reasons for
decreasing is that there is too much inventory at markets.
That is why the volume of European lumber, glulam and
Russian lumber will be decreased by 30%.
Also, there will be a decrease in volume of North
American lumber. Total volume of European lumber
during October, 2022 to June, 2023 will be 2,135,000
cbms, of North American lumber will be 1,051,000 cbms
and of Russian lumber will be 640,000 cbms. These results
are lower than the 2021’s result. However, there is a
possibility that the volume of lumber would be
overstocking at the end of 2023 to 2024.
On the other hand, volume of logs will be the same
volume from January to June in 2022. Nearly, 90% of logs
will be North American logs. Russian logs are still banned
to import to Japan. South Sea logs will be decreased by
There are several concerns about wood product business in
this year in Japan. One of them is that the rule of Plant
Quarantine will be strict in August so Japanese importers
might order many logs from overseas before August.
Other concerns are less demand for lumber due to a high
mortgage rate, stagflation in European economy, sluggish
economy in China, the strong yen caused by high interest
rate and a decrease in new starts.
It has been almost a year since Russia had invaded
Ukraine and the war would be worse. If there would be
more economic sanctions for Russia by the nations of the
West, there would be an influence to supply and demand
of forest products. It would be important to balance supply
and demand of imported and domestic wood products.
Enquiries for domestic plywood in December, 2022 are
still dull and manufacturers still control production. The
manufacturers do not change the prices and they will wait
until clients start to buy products again.
An issue is the volume of inventory. At the end of
November, 2022, it was 172,811 cbms, 94.5% more than
November, 2021. It was 4.9% more than the previous
However, a rate of increase is getting slow because a rate
of increase at the end of September, 2022 was 33.8%
increasing and a rate of increase at the end of October,
2022 was 10.4 increasing.
Volume of the inventory against shipment is 0.79% month
and this is a proper volume. It was 0.32 month in
November, 2021. There will be less demand for plywood
after the New Year because the inventory will be
controlled for closing accounts at the end of March, 2023
in distribution business. For manufacturers, it will be low
productivity in winter.
A futures price of 12mm South Sea plywood is $10 – 20
lower than before. The yen is recently 130 yen against the
dollar but it was 148 yen when the contracts were signed
up so the import cost is not low. The prices of concrete
forming panes for coating 3 x 6 are $830 – 840, C&F per
cbm and the prices in Japan are 2,590 yen, FOB per panel.
The prices of 12mm 3 x 6 form plywood are $740 – 750,
C&F per cbm and the prices in Japan are 2,310 yen, FOB
In Japan, form plywood for coating is 2,400 yen, delivered
per panel and form plywood is 2,200 yen, delivered per
panel. The prices have to be raised by 200 yen for profit.
South Sea log and products
Demand for South Sea logs increased in last year because
South Sea lumber could not arrive to Japan smoothly due
to delays by a confusion of COVID-19 at ports. However,
in this year, production at Japanese lumber companies get
back to normal and business confidence in the world
worsens so there won’t be much demand for South Sea
Since demand for decks in the U.S. calms down, there
might be supply to Japan.
The prices of lumber in any size had been high but
Chinese and Indonesian exporters started to lower the
prices since the second half of 2022. Inventory at
distribution business reaches the standard level and
inquiries are good so the prices in Japan will be controlled
as the prices in South Asia decrease.