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In Q1, China’s stock levels reached twice the normal level, i.e. 7.5 million m³ of log wood and 2 million m³ of lumber (Taicang Area). Freight rates for softwood lumber (CIF) increased by up to 20 US-$/m³, while domestic production plummeted by 50% in China. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a lack of Chinese workers in Russian sawmills. Furthermore, the warm winter made it difficult to harvest log wood in the northwest of Russia.
China needs two years for the market to return to normal after COVID-19.
Europeans eat away at Russia’s market share
Since Russia satisfies already 60% of the Chinese softwood lumber demand, the reduced supply make imports from other countries necessary. Sweden, Germany and Belarus are gaining considerable ground. As with lower qualities, Europeans are increasingly driving North Americans and Ukrainians out of the market.
According to Cece Chen, China has always been an emotional market rather than a rational one, which is why a market disruption like the current one caused by COVID-19 had a particularly marked effect on China. Chen thus expects Chinese market cycles to shorten to six to eight weeks. In the past weeks, buying was often driven by speculation. In part, exorbitant prices were paid. Now, supply is higher than demand and stock levels are still too high.
Log price down
Lately, log prices have fallen a little. The price of spruce logs from Europe, for example, fell from 115 €/m³ (CIF) to around 102 €/m³ at the moment. Cece Chen expects another minimal decrease in prices until July since stock levels are still too high.
Chen predicts that the Chinese timber market will need another two years to overcome the volatility caused by the repercussions of COVID-19. It will be quite a challenge for exporters to meet the changing needs of the Chinese market. However, demand for wood should remain stable at a high level – among other things thanks to numerous infrastructure measures.
|Type of wood||from CNY*||peak price||June 2020|
|hemlock (gangsaw)||90 US-$||125 US-$||100 US-$|
|spruce 22–28 (€/m3)||95 €||115 €||102 €|
|radiata pine (A30)||105 US-$||130 US-$||110 US-$|