Australia’s log exports reached a twenty-three-month peak in April 2023, as reported by IndustryEdge’s Wood Market Edge online.
The significant increase in softwood log exports occurred before the May 2023 announcement of the resumption of exports to China.
Interestingly, when the Chinese trade announcement was made, these exports had already been dispatched or were at sea.
Despite a substantial export volume of more than 144 thousand cubic meters (k m3) in a single month, none of the exports were bound for China.
India absorbed 91% of the total exports, making it the dominant destination: with shipments to it from Tasmania (Burnie: 19.5 cubic meters), SA (Port Adelaide: 20.0 thousand cubic meters), Victoria (Portland: 56.3 thousand cubic meters) and NSW (Twofold Bay/Eden: 34.9 thousand cubic meters) all making contributions.
A credible industry figure in South Australia commented that exporting domestic logs has been a longstanding practice, stating, “The magnet for this resource is surely India.”
The latest data confirms Australia increasingly turns to India as a lucrative export market.
Softwood Log Data
Over the year to April 2023, Australia’s total exports of softwood logs were 51% lower than the previous year, totaling just 0.425 million cubic meters.
However, for April 2023, IndustryEdge reports that exports rose from 1,842 cubic metres in March (lowest on record) to 144,314 cubic metres in April.
For export, softwood logs are differentiated as larger or smaller than 15 cm in diameter.
The distinction between log sizes was previously noteworthy, but IndustryEdge’s advised that analysis becomes challenging as monthly export volumes are increasingly erratic, as seen below:
If the chart retains validity in such light markets, it merely shows the contrast between what was once the case and what is now occurring.
Larger logs (or those with a diameter > 15cm) dominate Australia’s exports over most periods.
From 2021, the trend shifted away from favoring exports of the smaller diameter logs, albeit with much-diminished volumes.
However, in recent months, with the emergence of India as a new destination, the larger diameter logs are again dominating, as exports of the smaller logs rapidly diminish.
Wood Central has previously reported that India’s demand for roundwood to increase by 70% over the next decade, from 57 million cubic meters in 2020 to 98 million cubic meters in 2030 – primarily driven by the surge in the Indian construction sector.
According to the ITTO, the increase in wood consumption is exacerbated by a shortfall in wood production, increasing the economy’s reliance on exports.
Over the year ended April 2023, exports of the smaller logs totalled 0.046 million cubic metres or 10.8% of the total, while shipments of larger logs totalled 0.378 million cubic metres (89.2%).
Export prices for the smaller-sized logs have remained relatively stable in recent months, moving through a narrow range, while the average cost of the larger-diameter logs has fluctuated.
In April, exports of the smaller logs were recorded at AUDFob129.34 per cubic metre with larger diameter logs recorded at AUDFob137.13 per cubic metre.
Hardwood Log Data
Malaysia is the key recipient of Australian Hardwood log exports, replacing China as Australia’s primary trading partner.
In April 2023, Australia’s hardwood log exports totalled 30,676 cubic metres. The average price is reported at AUDFob137.85 per cubic metre.
According to IndustryEdge, on a full-year basis, hardwood log exports were down 14.5%, totalling 282,134 cubic metres.
IndustryEdge has provided a full breakdown of the state-based exports on its website.
In April 2023, exports from Tasmania dominated, accounting for 89.4% of all Australian exports – totalling 27,000 cubic meters. Victoria was the next highest at 318.9 cubic meters.
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