Demand for American Hardwoods Grows Down Under
Recently, the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) reported that American tree species were gaining popularity in Australia, with demand for American hardwoods rising significantly Down Under. This trend has been observed particularly over the past two years as the US and Australian dollars have remained close to parity, as noted on the AHEC website.
According to the AHEC, total shipments of US hardwood lumber to Australia and New Zealand in 2011 reached 10,268 m3 in volume and USD 8.95 million in value, indicating an increase of 15 percent and 20 percent, respectively, relative to the previous year. And while the AHEC reports a 22 percent decline in shipments to New Zealand, the volume of shipments to Australia grew with as much as 36 percent, reaching 7,701 m3.
The AHEC notes that although the markets of Australia and New Zealand are linked in a lot of ways, there are nevertheless certain differences in their respective current economic performance and stability, with New Zealand being in recession, which in turn has led to the decrease in the demand for imported hardwoods. The AHEC points out that Australia, on the other hand, is still reaping the rewards of its minerals boom and in addition, access to native hardwood species in the country is declining on account of increasingly strict Government legislation. These two factors have contributed to the observed substantial growth in demand for American hardwoods.!m(/uploads/story/49/thumbs/american_hardwoods_2_inline.png)
The Council notes that there was a significant increase in the exports of US hardwood veneers to Australia and New Zealand in 2011, with shipments rising by over 100 percent from the previous year. The hardwood veneer exports to both countries reached USD 3.13 million in value, as the vast majority, or USD 2.86 million, was shipped to Australia.
In terms of the most exported species, the hardwood export champion is white oak, which in 2011 dominated hardwood lumber exports to markets in both Australia and New Zealand. More precisely, white oak accounted for 80 percent of all shipments to Australia in the previous year. The other species reported as gaining popularity in terms of veneer exports are ash, walnut and maple.
The AHEC notes that white oak in particular has become commonly used for furniture, flooring, stairs and joinery and its colour and patterns are reported to provide some variety to the native hardwood species in Australia. The AHEC, however, points out that there is an increasing interest in other American hardwood species such as red oak and tulipwood. The Council expects that the interest in those species will further increase as they become better known.
It remains to be seen whether the demand for US hardwoods in Australia will continue in the coming years and whether other tree species will also gain popularity, as anticipated by the AHEC. And yet, the demand for timber in Australia in general is also likely to be influenced by the adoption of the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill, which was introduced by the Australian government on 23 November 2011, with the purpose of restricting the import and sale of illegally logged timber in the country.
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