In Oak We Trust: American Hardwoods Surge after Aussie Forest Ban

The latest figures released by the American Hardwood Export Council are evidence for the growing popularity of America’s most abundant hardwood species

Sat 13 Apr 24


The Australian timber supply chain is preparing for life after native hardwoods, with manufacturers now importing boatloads of 40-foot containers of American bhardwoods to keep up with record demand.

In January, Wood Central reported that Australian Sustainable Hardwoods, the country’s largest hardwood manufacturer, was now importing thirty or more American oak containers (marketed as glacial oak) every month.

Now, Wood Central can reveal that the hardwood lumber exports from the United States to Australia rose 22% for the year to February, fueled by American White Oak and its lesser-known cousin, American Red Oak.

Yesterday, Wood Central spoke to the American Hardwood Export Council – the peak body for US hardwoods responsible for a global campaign to export lumber into 50 international markets – who confirmed that in line with data just released by the US Department of Agriculture, Australia imported nearly 9,000 cubic metres of Red Oak last year alone.

American red oak is the most common species in the American Hardwood Forest. The wood is characterised by its porous structure, sometimes with a pinkish hue. Despite its many qualities, American red oak is often wrongfully seen in Europe as a lesser version of American white oak and European oak. In this video, craftsmen from Benchmark Furniture explore the qualities of the oak—footage courtesy of @AmericanHardwoods.

Readily available, Red Oak is the most abundant species in American hardwood forests, and whilst it has similar characteristics to White Oak, “its more open grain means it is more suitable for staining, making it a versatile choice,” according to a spokesperson from the American Hardwood Export Council.

According to Rod Wiles, Regional Director for the American Hardwood Export Council, the council has “had a significant amount of interest in red oak from savvy specifiers in Australia,” who “recognise its quality and value and have anticipated the shift in demand resulting from the changes in native logging that came into force in January 2024.”

“Australia and New Zealand are important markets for American Hardwood Exporters,” according to Mr Wiles. Before adding, “demand continues to be strong from importers, manufacturers, designers, and architects, who have an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the different species.”

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FIA data shows that the growing stock of the U.S. red oak is 2.62 billion m3, which is 18% of the total U.S. hardwood growing stock. American red oak is growing 60.6 million m3 per year, while the harvest is 31.9 million m3 per year. The net volume (after harvest) is increasing by 28.7 million m3 yearly. U.S. red oak growth exceeds or is balanced with harvest in all states except Texas. (Photo Credit: American Hardwood Export Council)

Beyond Red and White Oaks, the US is also exporting a growing amount of American cherry and American maple, which have both grown exponentially by 650% and 110%, respectively.

The pivot to the US comes as the local industry grapples with the ban on Victorian and West Australian native forest harvesting – enforceable from January 1st, with Wood Central reporting that Australian Sustainable Hardwoods, once reliant on harvested Victorian species to produce 520 cubic metres of timber a day, has spent years more than five years working with US-based hardwood exporters to make up the shortfall.

In the lead-up to the decision to close Victoria’s native forests, ASH heavily invested in American Oak based “Glacial Oak.” In October, Vince Hurley spoke to WIN News about the transition – footage courtesy of @australiansustainablehardwoods.

“We are using it (Glacial Oak),” according to Vince Hurley, Managing Director of Australian Sustainable Hardwoods, “to supply the market we have developed and as a replacement for some of our Vic Ash as well.”

“It has been perfect in that space – staircases, windows, doors and furniture. We also have a new engineered flooring line; we will have an engineered floor made of it.”


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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