Idaho Forest Group's chairman expects offshore exports to fall back as US housing market improves, Asia's building boom declines; five-mill company increased exports by 200% between 2009 and 2011, shipped one-eighth of production to Asia

BOISE, Idaho , November 6, 2012 () – Lumber was a sweet market for Idaho sawmills in 2006. Then the housing market went kerplunk. Some mills turned to a new market to help them survive: Asia. Idaho lumber exports grew by 200 percent between 2009 and 2011. Idaho Forest Group, with five mills in North Idaho, said one-eighth of its production went to China, Vietnam, Japan and elsewhere in Asia.

How is that wood used?

Some goes into furniture. Some goes into decking and tongue-and-groove paneling. "I'm really impressed about timber and lumber and how they were willing to adopt and find new markets," said Jeffery Sayer, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce.

Does currency play a role?

It appears to. Idaho Forest Group was able to play the export market in large part because the American dollar was cheap compared with Asian currencies.

Will exporting last?

Probably not, at least at last year's rate of exports. Marc Brinkmeyer, Idaho Forest Group's chairman, said exporting could be profitable as long as dollar stays cheap. But Idaho lumber exports appear to be slowing. Second-quarter exports this year were down about 15 percent. Commerce officials cite two reasons: an improving U.S. home-building market is keeping more timber in this country, and Asia's building boom is softening.

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(c)2012 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

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