Value of Sawn Softwood Imports Leaps in January

mports of sawn softwood rose 42.2% in January 2015, compared with January 2014, reaching AUD31.5 million, just AUD0.2 million below the record set in October 2014. After modest and probably seasonal declines in November and December, imports were back with a vengeance in January, underscoring the strength in Australia’s domestic housing economy.

The chart below displays the recent history.


The value of sawn softwood imports has never been higher, driven by significant growth in most of the major grades, but not all.

Imports of untreated dressed Radiata pine sawnwood experienced solid growth of 59.0% for the year to the end of January 2015, reaching AUD50.2 million. Untreated dressed sawn softwood of other species, rose a massive 78.2% to AUD67.1 million over the same period.

The latter grade has not seen consistent import rises in recent years, as the chart below from the FWPA Data Dashboard shows.


As can be observed, the last year’s rise in the value of imports has been substantial, by any measure. Unlike the rise experienced through 2010 and 2011 however, there is expectation now that the increases are driven by market fundamentals, not least of which is growth in new residential dwelling commencements. It is relevant to examine the next chart, which shows changes in the dominant and participating importing nations. 

For each of the years ended January since 2011, imports from Estonia have held the larges share of the essentially Northern Hemisphere supply of dressed sawn softwood to Australia.


To the end of January 2011, Estonian supply accounted for 35.9% of the total value of all imports. Though still significant and leading, for the year to the end of January 2015, Estonia accounted for 25.8% of the total, with supplies from Austria closing in quickly on the dominant position.

Of the total of all sawn softwood imports for the year to end January 2015, imports of dressed treated products, manufactured of Radiata Pine, were in total, modestly lower (0.8%) for the year to end January 2014, compared with the prior corresponding period. This is possibly because of the pressures of the NZD/AUD exchange rate, because most of these imports to Australia are from New Zealand. However, there appears to have been some switching of New Zealand’s imports, into untreated products described above.

Perhaps the other grade of interest is roughsawn softwood <120mm, which on the same year-on-year basis, experienced growth of 42.6% to AUD46.9 million for the year to end January 2015.

For further details, go to the FWPA Data Dashboard.