America’s Ports Flooded with Plywood from Across the Globe

Plywood imports are up more than 44% for the year to date, as US housing and construction market shows early signs of recovery.

Mon 10 Jun 24


More than 34,000 cubic metres of Russian plywood have entered American ports so far this year, a 15% drop in volumes over the past 12 months, as builders now scramble for building suppliers to meet Covid-era demand for housing.

At the same time that the United States is weaning off Russia—still its 10th largest trading partner—total plywood imports are surging, with 1,532,800 cubic metres of imports fueling the country’s recovering building and construction industry—now dubbed the world’s best bet for global timber.

That is according to the latest figures from the United States Department of Agriculture, which reports that total imports from January to April are up more than 44% over the past 12 months—bolstered by a surge in Vietnamese imports.

Vietnam (now responsible for 295,900 cubic metres) is America’s largest market for plywood, followed by Brazil (282,100 cubic metres), Indonesia (194,900 cubic metres), Canada (155,400 cubic metres) and Chile (154,200 cubic metres).

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Vietnam has emerged as one of the world’s most important plywood markets, fuelling a surge in secondary processed wood products. In Khe Lua, a Vietnamese village, a factory produces elephant earboards that will be sold to China as plywood. (Photo Credit: Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo)

It comes as last month, Wood Central reported that the surge in Vietnamese imports – up 148.2% on the same time the previous year, comes after the US Department of Commerce issued a ruling finding that a large portion of hardwood plywood products entering the US came from China—circumventing federal anti-dumping laws.

As a result, the US government introduced new tariffs on plywood that entered supply chains – with prosecutors pushing to expose traders that use third-party countries to bring Chinese products into the United States. That includes a Miami couple, who earlier this year, was sentenced to 57 months earlier this year for operating a US $65m illegal plywood scheme, which saw Chinese-manufactured timber smuggled through Panama and Malaysia to circumvent anti-dumping laws.

Why is global plywood now flooding US ports?

Housing starts are up across the United States, and house builders are fast adding new inventory to the market, according to a report by Fortune last week. While sky-high mortgage rates and prices continue to weigh on first-time home buyers, housing starts rose 5.7% month-over-month to 1.36 million in April 2024, continuing an improving trend fuelled by single-family, multi-family apartment and townhouse construction.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that residential starts increased 10.7% in February, the largest since May 2023, to a 1.52 million annualized rate, government data showed. The median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 1.44 million pace. Building permits rose to a 1.52 million rate, the fastest since August 2023. Footage courtesy of @markets.

According to Charles Schwab, a US bank heavily invested in mortgages and lending, “As housing was the first sector to kick off the rolling recessions we’ve pointed out for more than two years, it now looks like it’s participating in the start of rolling recoveries,” the bank said. Before adding that, it also comes with an important distinction: “A recovery is not synonymous with a booming expansion.”

To understand why North America is now the safest market for global lumber, visit the  Russ Taylor Consulting website.


  • 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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