US Forest Product Exports to AsiaThe industrial wood pellet industry is catching its breath after an astounding surge since the turn of the millennium. Global production of pellets totaled roughly 2 million metric tons (MT) in 2001, and roughly 28 million MT in 2015. As this market continues to evolve globally, it’s a good time to step back and analyze other U.S. forest product exports by region and type. This data can tell us a lot about raw material utilization, and help uncover new opportunities for biomass and wood pellet growth in foreign markets. New demand for industrial wood pellets is on the horizon, as directives from the Paris climate agreement begin to take effect, and Asian markets—particularly the South Korean and Japanese markets—represent new opportunities for U.S. Producers.
Of the approximately 19 million MT of wood pellets, lumber, logs and wood chips exported from the continental U.S. in 2016, 7.9 million MT (41 percent) were logs (Fig. 1). In total, 5.8 million MT (74 percent) of logs were exported out of the West, 1.4 million MT out of the South, and 0.6 million MT out of the North, to other countries. However, most logs (7.4 of 7.9 million MT) exported out of the U.S. were destined for Asian markets. The majority were exported out of western ports due to the region’s high-quality timber and closer proximity to Asia.
On a volume basis, wood pellets were the next most significant wood product export from the U.S., totaling 4.7 million MT. Over 99 percent of this volume was shipped from the South and received into European ports.
Of the 3.5 million MT of U.S. lumber exports, 2 million MT (57 percent) were shipped via South ports, 0.8 million MT (22 percent) were shipped from North ports and 0.7 million MT (21 percent) were shipped from West ports. Approximately 2.9 million MT of wood chips were exported from the U.S., of which 1.7 million MT (59 percent) were shipped via West ports, primarily to Japan. An additional 1.1 million MT (3 percent) were exported from South ports.
Asian countries are important markets for U.S. wood product exports, especially logs and lumber shipped to China, Japan and Vietnam. For each of the three port regions, log and lumber exports represented the most significant exports to Asian countries in 2016 (Fig. 2). The only exception to this was wood chip exports to Japan out of the West.