Australia's forest industry sees higher wood products imports, primarily from Europe, and exports, with China accounting for 22%; value of roundwood exports up 43%

CANBERRA, Australia , November 8, 2011 (press release) – Australia’s forest industry has experienced stronger trade conditions, following a period of weak international markets, according to Australian Forest and Wood Products Statistics, released today by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.

The general trends observed in trade indicate an increase in both imports and exports of wood products, however there was a significant decline in hardwood plantation establishment and a slowing in new housing construction activity.

ABARES acting Deputy Executive Director, Terry Sheales, said there were positive signals for the industry, with forest product exports up by 9.4 per cent to $2.5 billion in 2010-11, driven by a recovery in woodchip exports from hardwood plantation regions and a large increase in both the volume and value of roundwood exports.

“The largest growth in Australia’s exports was in roundwood, which increased by 43 per cent to $198 million in 2010-11,” Dr Sheales said. “This increase followed a 36 per cent rise in the export value of roundwood in 2009-10.

“China is fast becoming a major trading partner for forest products, accounting for 22 per cent of Australia’s forest product exports in 2010-11, compared to just 11 per cent in 2006-07.”

The volume of sawnwood imports in 2010-11 was 13 per cent higher than in 2009-10, the majority of this increase being sourced from European countries. While New Zealand has traditionally been Australia’s largest supplier of sawnwood, Europe was Australia’s primary source for sawnwood imports in 2010-11.

However, housing activity in Australia fell significantly in the March and June quarters of 2011, indicating difficult conditions for the domestic forest product industry.

A slowing in building activity was evident nationally as total dwelling commencements (including new houses, new townhouses and other residential buildings) fell by 5.8 per cent primarily driven by a 14 per cent drop in new houses commenced in 2010-11.

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