Markets & Trade - Markets
The United States remains BC’s largest and most mature export market. The US still accounts for 53% of lumber shipments from BC, down from 84% in 2006. The biggest change has been a shift to Asia, with China now accounting for 31% of BC lumber exports, up from virtually nothing in the mid-2000s. Forecasts now state that the US residential market has rebounded since the market crash of 2008-9, with housing starts back up over 1 million in 2014, and an expectation that they will reach 1.5 million by the end of the decade. For the latest softwood lumber indicators, see the Information Services page.
Asia has been an important lumber market for the Canadian forest industry for more than 40 years. Since establishing a Tokyo office in 1971, COFI alongside provincial and federal governments, has worked to develop wood building codes and wood product standards in Asia, as well as to provide training in designing and building with wood. COFI is also a leading organization in the market development efforts of Canada Wood.
Japan has a long history of importing Canadian lumber. Today, Japan is Canada’s second largest overseas lumber market (behind China), and Canada is Japan’s largest supplier of softwood lumber. When it comes to wood products, the Japanese are the most quality conscious customers in the world, and expectations for the very best are reflected by the highest quality lumber they buy.
Today, Japan builds over 100,000 wood frame homes and approximately 350,000 traditional Japanese styled post and beam wooden homes per year. However, due to Japan’s aging population and decreasing house sizes COFI, through its Tokyo office of Canada Wood, currently focuses much of its effort to increase wood consumption in apartment buildings, elderly care housing and other large scale commercial facilities, in addition to expanded use in single family construction.
China’s flourishing economy, coupled with policy constraints limiting domestic forest production, has resulted in skyrocketing lumber imports over the last several years. Today China is the largest importer of lumber in the world, including receiving 31% of all BC lumber exports, second only to the United States. By way of example, in 2007, China imported 275.7 million board feet of lumber from BC. In 2013, that number had jumped by over 1200% to 3374.5 million board feet. China is expected to remain the fastest-growing importer of softwood lumber in the world in the coming years. COFI has two offices in China (Shanghai and Beijing) to support market outreach and development.
Although a relatively small lumber market compared to Japan and China, the South Korean market continues to grow in both volume and sophistication in the products it imports. Housing starts in Korea are increasing at a rate of 5% annually while wood housing starts are increasing at a rate of 10%. BC remains Korea’s largest supplier of softwood lumber products, primarily structural products, exterior envelope products, and value-added products. COFI maintains a Seoul office of Canada Wood.
Europe is British Columbia’s fifth largest overseas market after China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. EU imports of softwood lumber have been showing signs of recovery since 2010. Through the Canada Wood office in the United Kingdom, COFI closely monitors codes and standards as well as providing support to industry, trade, specifiers, designers and the public.
There is growing interest from the BC lumber industry to expand business with India. Although lumber shipments to India are small, export figures are increasing rapidly, and the provincial government has turned its attention to market development in India. COFI is closely monitoring trade with India and is hopeful that India will become another market for BC lumber.