Softwood log exports easing as small diameter trade slumps

Australia’s exports of softwood logs have eased over the last year, but remain close to their historic peaks. In particular, exports of Pine logs >15 cm diameter were 1.1% higher at 2.601 million m3 over the year-ended March 2019, while aggregate softwood log exports were 8.2% lower than a year earlier, totalling 3.553 million m3.

As the chart below shows, total exports of softwood logs peaked at just over 4.0 million m3 for the year-ended July 2017. Since then, they have tracked down around 500,000 m3, to 3.553 million m3 for the year-ended March 2019.

The main – in fact the only – driver for the decline, has been that smaller dimension pine logs (<15cm diameter) have experienced a 41.3% fall from more than 1.020 million m3 to total just 598,684 m3 over the year-ended March 2019.


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

Noting that the separation of softwood logs by diameter and sub-species only commenced in January 2017, we can see that the significant bulk of the logs (red) are Pine >15 cm diameter. The next largest volume (green) are pine <15 cm diameter. Non-pine softwoods >15cm (pink) and <15 cm (blue) are relatively insignificant by volume.

The table below shows all four ‘grades’ for the year-ended March and provides some comparison between them.

  YE Mar '18 YE Mar '19 % Change
Pine >15 cm 2,573,518 2,601,942 1.1%
Pine <15 cm 1,020,753 598,684 -41.3%
Other >15 cm 240,547 300,404  24.9%
Other <15 cm 35,196 49,723  41.3%
Total 3,870,014 3,550,753 -8.2%

Log exports are contentious, in a similar way to which woodchip exports were once (and still are at times) contentious. Often the debate is tied up in consideration of whether local processors have access to sufficient quantities of logs. However, the logs being exported may not always be in a suitable location or of a suitable specification for local processing.

It is an understandable and necessary debate for Australia to have. What is important is to ensure that it is a civil and proper debate, informed by information and data. The trade data, only part of which is presented here, can be found on the FWPA Data Dashboard.