Hardwood chip exports rose 12.5% YE December 2015 as monthly exports approach record levels

Exports of hardwood chips continue to rise, approaching near record levels. For the year-ended December 2015, exports totaled 5.151 Mbdmt or something close to 10.3 million green metric tonnes (GMT). The size of the harvest and the supply chain supporting it is substantial and growing, as latest evidence attests.

Australia’s total woodchip exports are detailed in the chart below. It shows that exports totaled 5.805 Mbdmt for the year-ended December 2015, of which 5.105 Mbdmt or 88.7% was hardwood chips and the remaining 0.653 Mbdmt was softwood chips.


To go straight to the dashboard and take a closer look at the data, click here.

Total exports were significant and at 11.3% higher than for the prior year, are clearly taking full advantage of the depreciated Australian Dollar, coupled with the quality of the domestic supply.

However, the softwood chip export volume, general arising from a residue flow from solid wood production, remains largely stable. It grew just 2.9%. 

The hardwood volume conversely, grew 12.5% for the year-ended December 2015, compared with the prior period. The vast bulk of this arose from accelerated plantation harvest and has to be viewed in the context of its GMT equivalent for its magnitude to be properly understood. Assuming a 50% fibre content, the 10.3 MGMT needs to be coupled with rising hardwood log exports that in total suggest an annual export hardwood pulpwood harvest of more than 11.0 MGMT.

The very latest data suggests that harvest volume could be approaching something close to 13.0 MGMT and appears to have further room to grow in coming months. In that context, IndustryEdge has reported that, based on February shipping and port data, total woodchip exports for the month were very close to 700,000 bdmt (both hardwood and softwood species), with the expectations that the hardwood proportion was more than 90%.

If those volumes continue, supply chain capacity and throughput, as well as the sustainability of the rate of harvest, will come under serious challenge.