Global demand for softwood number jumped 18 percent last year after plunging to a 50-year low in 2009, and lumber prices in North America, Asia and Europe are at 10-month highs, Wood Resource Quarterly reported.
China is driving demand for lumber, with Chinese imports rising to 9.4 million cubic meters in 2010 from just over 2 million in 2006. The growth continued in the first two months of this year, when Chinese demand jumped 32 percent from the first two months of 2010.
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Demand also rose last year in practically all major lumber markets in Asia, Europe and North America, Wood Resource Quarterly reported. Imports rose 7 percent in the U.S., the world’s largest lumber importer, and almost 15 percent to Japan, the No. 3 market. Shipments to the largest European markets rose by 10 to 35 percent.
Although price movements have been rocky, the trend has been up. Prices of U.S. southern yellow pine were up 24 percent year-to-year in March. Similar increases were posted for Douglas fir lumber in the western U.S. and spruce, pine and fir in western Canada.
Lumber price increases are expected in many markets this year for reasons including expected increased demand in China, Japanese imports for post-earthquake rebuilding and “continued measured improvements” in the U.S. housing market.