Pacific Northwest lumber exporters continue to wait for recovery of Japanese housing sector one year after March 2011 earthquake and tsunami

LOS ANGELES , March 8, 2012 () –

Japan's construction and timber importing sectors continue to recover more slowly than expected from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and the extent of the damage is behind the delay, according to industry experts, KPLU Radio in Tacoma, Washington, reported March 6.

The timber industry in the Northwestern U.S. has hoped for an uptick in its exports to help in the rebuilding in Japan, according to the article carried in Northwest News Network.

Wood exports from Oregon to Japan rose in 2011 but only slightly, according to Hakan Ekstrom, forest products analyst for Wood Resources International Llc. Demand will more likely rise in the long term but not for the first six to 12 months, said Ekstrom.

Japan's hard-hit Tohoku region has faced obstacles ranging from the large amount of damage incurred, the use of prefabricated houses, continuing problems with the Fukushima nuclear reactor, and the destruction of the lumber import infrastructure; all these factors are expected to delay growth in lumber imports, reported KPLU.

Katsuaki Yuyama Chugoku Lumber Co.'s manager Katsuaki Yuyama said his company's warehouse in Sendai was destroyed, and that it took six months to begin shipping from the facility.
One of Japan's largest importers of wood from the U.S. Northwest, the company brings in lumber used for permanent homes, said Yuyama. When those homes eventually begin to be constructed he expects imports to rise, but he added that he cannot predict when.

Paul Owen, President of Boring, Oregon-based Vanport International Inc., who had traveled to Japan, said he was impressed by the large amount of cleanup last year. However, the damage is too large to expect quick improvement, he noted.

Japan needed prefab houses and plywood to provide shelter quickly after the disasters. Ekstrom said that, eventually, the residents will be able to build new housing and then they are expected to turn to wood from the Pacific Northwest.

The primary source of this article is KPLU Radio, Tacoma, Washington, March 6, 2012.

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