Sawn timber imports fall to near decade lows

Australia’s imports of sawn softwood continued to decline over the course of 2016, falling 15.1% compared with 2015 and totaling 590,782 m3. After peaking in March 2016, year-end imports have declined every month since and are set to continue the slide that commenced in mid-2015, into 2017. The largest declines were experienced for the dressed grades, imports of which fell 24.2% in 2016, to 195,961 m3. Volumes are approaching pre-GFC levels and of interest, doing so as the housing construction boom continues.

The chart below displays the details graphically, but it also shows that further declines are set for 2017.


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

Although only marginal, monthly imports in December 2016 were 0.5% lower than in December 2015. You have to look back to May 2016 to find a month that saw sawn softwood imports higher than in the prior year.

The dressed grade of sawn softwood, the largest volume of imports, declined most sharply, as outlined above. The roughsawn grade is the second largest grade of imports by volume and experienced a decline of 0.2% on the prior year.

Examining the dressed softwood imports by country of origin shows that some traditional supplier countries –Sweden is the best example, followed by Germany and Finland – experienced massive import increases in 2015, only to see their positions slip back sharply in 2016. 

However that situation was not universal, as the Estonian suppliers can attest. Their imports rose a respectable 2.9% compared with 2015, and at 70,440 m3 for 2016, they are now the dominant supplier.

The chart below displays the changing fortunes of the dressed sawn softwood importing nations over the last year.


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

The table below shows that by contrast with Estonia, 2016 was a rough year for dressed sawn softwood importing nations.

Australian Imports of Dressed Sawn Softwood by Country: 2015 – 2016 (m3 & %)

 Country  Dec-15  Dec-16  % change
 Austria  38,165  16,071  -57.9%
 Estonia  68,432  70,440  2.9%
 Finland  33,662  18,089  -46.3%
 Germany  6,870  4,915  -28.5%
 Lithuania  31,051  31,250  0.6%
 Sweden  72,866  47,833  -34.4%

What is true of one sector is however, rarely true of another. As the next item shows, Australia’s imports of Builders’ Joinery continue to amaze, and even frighten in some sectors.