Aussies Now Opt for American Hardwood: In Red Oak We Trust?

Shipments of Red oak and White oak are now surging at Australian ports as the supply chain prepares for life after native hardwoods in Victoria and WA.

Fri 07 Jun 24


The Australian timber supply chain is preparing for life after native hardwoods, with record shipments of American oak now arriving at Australian ports every week.

In January, Wood Central reported that Australian Sustainable Hardwoods, the country’s largest hardwood manufacturer, was importing thirty American oak containers every month, with the Victorian and WA State Governments’ decision to exit native forestry leading supply chains to look across the Pacific to shore up supply chains.

Now, Wood Central can reveal that imports of American red oak – used in mouldings, flooring, furniture, doors, cabinets and coffins – increased by more than 1531%—or 15 times—for the first quarter of 2024, with volumes for the first time, surpassing white oak – which is also up 64%, flowing through ports at the same time that NSW supplies have run out.

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American red oak is the dominant species in the U.S. hardwood forests – with distinctive grain and wood that is not always red in colour. The name comes from the leaf colour in the fall. Red oak may be sold based on ‘northern’, ‘southern’ and ‘Appalachian’. (Photo Credit: American Hardwood Export Council)

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 more than 4,000 cubic metres of red oak in the first quarter alone.

According to Rod Wiles, Regional Director for the American Hardwood Export Council, the interest in red oak stems from a greater focus on sustainability and waste reduction among eco-aware consumers.

“We have been promoting the benefits of American red oak in Australia for the last few years,” Mr Wiles said, adding that “it shares many of the characteristics of white oak, is readily available and cost-effective.”

“We always encourage specifiers to look to use what the forest provides; too much focus on the best grades of a few popular hardwood species increases pressure on one part of the resource and encourages waste.”

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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)

Readily available, red oak is the most abundant species in American hardwood forests, accounting for 18% of all growing stock. While it has similar characteristics to White Oak, its more open grain makes it more suitable for staining, making it a versatile choice.

It comes months after Mr Wiles reported a significant uptake in red oak from “savvy specifiers”, who are now looking for alternatives to Australian species in the wake of successive state government decisions to either close or severely curtail native logging.


  • 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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