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  U.S. Hardwood Lumber Exports Fall in 2023
[Jan 10, 2024]

U.S. foreign trade of hardwood lumber has declined sharply in 2023. Exporters have struggled to compete on price against alternative species in most offshore markets this year. Meanwhile, fading demand in the U.S. has impeded imports, traders say.

Hardwood lumber exports to offshore destinations fell to 1.56 million cubic meters through August, down 21 percent from the first eight months of 2022. At the current pace, exports will decline to the lowest volume since 2011, according to statistics from the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service.

Imports plunged 32 percent through August to 241,436 cubic meters. The steep decline so far in 2023 maintains a roller coaster of trends evident in recent years. Shipments jumped 29 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, then plummeted during the pandemic years, falling to a multi-year low in 2021 before rebounding strongly last year.

Exports to China, by far the largest overseas market for U.S. hardwoods, slipped to 696,063 cubic meters through August, trailing the year-ago eight-month volume by 10 percent. Shipments to China are on pace to decline for a third consecutive year after peaking in 2020 at 1.25 million cubic meters.

Sales to other Pacific Rim destinations fell at a steeper rate compared to the decline in China. Shipments to Vietnam decreased 23 percent to 224,743 cubic meters. Exports to smaller markets in the region such as Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, and Malaysia plunged between 44-54 percent.

The downward trend was equally evident in Europe. Exports to the United Kingdom, historically the largest European market for U.S. hardwoods, plunged 37 percent to 71,357 cubic meters. Deliveries to Germany and Italy fell 49 percent and 43 percent, respectively. Shipments to Spain slipped 18 percent.