Log export challenges continue as New Zealand fills a gap


Australia’s log exports remained under intense pressure in February, with exports falling to 129,713 m3, less than half the monthly average of the last year. With Chinese markets inaccessible, softwood log exports are taking the brunt of the pain. With exports totalling just 81,851 m3 for the month and hardwood log exports remaining relatively stable at 37,862 m3.

Softwood log exports have found it difficult to identify opportunities, in lieu of Chinese markets. With exports for February just 30% of the monthly average over the last year.


Australia’s total annualised log exports can be observed in the chart and table below.



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

Code Description YE Feb '20 YE Feb '21 % Change
4403.11.00 SW Treated                21,987                  3,268 -85.1%
4403.21.00 SW Pine >15 cm          1,961,605          1,342,162 -31.6%
4403.22.00 SW Pine <15 cm          1,224,708          1,614,939 31.9%
4403.25.00 SW Other >15 cm              272,534              212,089 -22.2%
4403.26.00 SW Other <15 cm                64,525                38,863 -39.8%
4403.49.02 Tropical                48,583                27,433 -43.5%
4403.91.00 Oak                        53                        46 -11.6%
4403.98.00 HW Eucalyptus              495,887              570,476 15.0%
4403.99.61 Native Sandalwood                  1,371                      698 -49.1%
4403.99.99 Plantation Sandalwood                65,356                45,787 -29.9%
  Total          4,156,609          3,855,763 -7.2%

Even prior to the China challenges, we can observe that larger dimension softwood logs were in decline and being replaced by the smaller dimension logs. There will be different views about which is better for the domestic industry and its short and long-term needs.

This annual data shows a snapshot of decline over a year, but the specific monthly data is even more telling.

Because the majority of Australia’s hardwood log exports are to Malaysia, the market for those logs remains relatively stable – although they are somewhat patchy, as a result of the smaller total volumes involved.

It is the softwood log exports, as the second chart shows, that have faced the bulk of the challenges in finding new markets for what must be described as very large volumes of monthly log exports.

The chart demonstrates amply that the softwood log producers and exporters have not been idle, and they are developing alternative markets, including in India and Korea. Perhaps one feature of the market worthy of consideration is that average export prices remain relatively strong. If nothing else, this demonstrates the often observed but under-appreciated point that quality wood fibre is scarce, not abundant!


India and Korea are now the main market for Australian softwood logs, while Malaysia remains the main destination for hardwood logs.


By way of contrast with Australia and as reported through IndustryEdge’s Wood Market Edge online service, the New Zealand log export situation has barely changed, either as to volume or with respect to countries of destination: China remains the dominant importer of New Zealand’s very significant log exports.


For the record, in February 2021, New Zealand’s log exports totalled 1.858 million m3, at the growing average price of USDFob119/m3, in reach of the all-time record of USD123/m3 achieved in January 2018.

New Zealand Log Exports by Selected Country: Jan ’19 – Feb ’21 (‘000 m3 & USD/m3)


Source: IndustryEdge, derived from Statistics NZ

Also supplied by IndustryEdge, the chart below shows that far from feeling the pain of the ban on Australian log shipments, China’s softwood log imports have continued apace into 2021. The astute will note that the import volumes and prices in January and February are the same. For the second successive year, Chinese Customs has released no data in January and then provided the same data for both January and February. That inevitably reduces the reliability of the data, but the chart does show China’s significant lift in imports since the middle of 2020. In January and February, imports of softwood logs were reportedly 2.909 million m3 at an average import price of USDCif163/m3.



Full details of New Zealand’s exports and China’s softwood log imports are available from IndustryEdge.