China Ramps Up Aussie Log Imports as NZ Timber Fills Ports

More than 70% of Chinese log exports now come from NZ, with China Customs confirming that radiata pine imports dwarf Japanese, Polish, Canadian, German and Australia exports.

Mon 22 Apr 24


More than 90,000 cubic metres of log exports left Australian posts for China last month, a 32% increase from February figures. This represents a new high point since China resumed trade with Australia after pausing it over bark beetle concerns.

The new data provided by China Customs reveals that over 66,000 cubic metres of sawlog (an increase from 51,500 in February) and 25,600 cubic metres of pulp (an increase from 18,300 last month) were in cargo at Chinese ports – with both a rapid rise on pre-2024 numbers.

However, whilst the figures point to an improved relationship, it is a steep decline from the pre-COVID peak, with China taking 500,000 cubic metres of softwood (or 99% of total exports) in May 2019. 

In addition to log exports, woodchip exports are also on the rise, with China Customs reporting that Australian exporters were responsible for more than 228,000 cubic metres of wood chips through China in March—an increase of 3.8% from last month.

View of wood logs on a dock ready to be shipped for export in the Port of Napier on Hawke Bay in the North Island of New Zealand. New Zealand is China's most important market for raw log imports. (Photo Credit: Stock Photo ID: 1437051494 via Shutterstock Images)
View of raw logs on dock and ready for export at the Port of Napier on Hawke Bay, New Zealand. New Zealand is China’s most important market for raw log imports. (Photo Credit: Stock Photo ID: 1437051494 via Shutterstock Images)

It comes as Wood Central reported earlier this month that New Zealand radiata pine—by far China’s largest market for log imports—is now responsible for 85% of logs “jammed” at Chinese ports, with PF Olsen reporting that more than 3.4 million cubic metres of NZ logs are awaiting delivery at China’s mega ports.

According to PF Olsen’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Scott Downs, the daily off-take at Chinese ports is 60,000 cubic metres per day, which means that as of late March, “there are over two months of inventory in China.”

More broadly, Chinese total log imports jumped to almost 2.4 million cubic metres for March, with New Zealand (responsible for more than 70% of total imports), Japan (5.9%), Poland (4.8%), Canada (4.4%), Germany (4%), and Australia (2.7%) being the country’s largest markets.

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Piles of raw logs lined up in Zhangjiagang in 2021 could be a thing of the past, with China relying on lumber rather than log exports to drive its forest economy. (Photo Credit: ambient_pix via Shutterstock Images)

However, the total increase in imports could mask a long-term slowdown in logs with Rudolf van Rensburg, the co-author of China—Forest, Log & Lumber Outlook, forecasting that China will pivot from raw logs to lumber imports (now dominated by Russia), thanks to a slowdown in global harvesting in log markets.

“We anticipate that the growth in Chinese lumber exports will offset the decline in log exports amid a ban on log exports from Ukraine and Russia, bark beetle infestations in Europe, and a slowdown in NZ harvesting,” Mr van Rensburg told Wood Central.

To learn more about China and its role in the global forest economy, click on Wood Central’s exclusive interviews with the authors of China—Forest, Log & Lumber Outlook.


  • 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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