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Finland’s softwood lumber exports to the world fell by almost 20% in the first nine months of the year. Exports to all markets, except de Middle East, have dropped considerably as compared to the same period of 2019: Finnish softwood lumber deliveries reached 5.4 million m3 during the mentioned period, a fall by 19% (1.3 million m3) as compared to the same period of 2019. 

Finland’s softwood lumber exports to the European Union fell by -25%, reaching only 1.86 million during January-September 2020, as compared to the 2.49 million exported in 2019. The United Kingdom was still the biggest European softwood lumber importer from Finland and but volumes delivered dropped imported by -32%, down to 446,333 m3.

Finnish softwood lumber exports to China dropped by -21% and reached a volume of 774,241 m3 during January-September 2020.

Exports to the Middle East reported the most substantial growth (+13%), up to 723,135 m3. Saudi Arabia’s imports of softwood lumber from Finland rose by +20% during the mentioned period and reached a volume of 410,289 m3.

Weak ability for sawmills to pay for raw materials due to low export prices of lumber

Almost 500 million cubic meters of lumber were produced worldwide last year, of which almost three quarters were coniferous lumber. Last year more than 12 million cubic meters of lumber were produced in Finland. Finland’s share of total world production was less than three percent. This ongoing year Finnish lumber production will decline, because of the industrial action at the beginning of the year, the corona crisis, and the closing of Stora Enso’s Kitee sawmill, which was closed last year.

The weakened ability of sawmills to pay for timber due to the current low export prices of lumber may slow down the timber trade towards the end of the year. In addition, buyers and sellers have differing views on wood prices, which is common after a drop in prices from the higher level of the previous years.

Next year lumber production will rise from this year’s low quantity. The share of exports in lumber production will decrease this year, as domestic demand has held its ground better than the export market. However, the share of exports will grow again next year.

At the turn of the year, the supply of lumber was higher than demand. Supply was boosted by increased sawing of storm and insect damaged wood in Central Europe and Sweden. Last year the increased supply lumber made of damaged wood intensified competition, especially in the North African and Chinese markets. Export prices fell sharply because of this.

This year damaged wood has been sawn in abundance in Central Europe, and last summer there was extensive insect damage in Central Europe. Relief from these climate-accelerated damages is not forthcoming unless drier and hotter summers than normal are avoided in the coming years. To meet the increased need for sawmilling due to the supply of damaged wood, companies are investing in new capacity. If the investment plans materialize, Europe’s lumber production capacity will increase by more than three million cubic meters this year and next. This is approximately the same amount produced in Finland in one quarter.

Softwood lumber exported from Finland to… (in cubic meters )

Destination Jan.-Sep. 2019 Jan.-Sep. 2020 Change in %
EUROPEAN Union
2,493,959 1,861,387 -25 %
United Kingdom
653,426 446,333 -32 %
Germany
379,538 299,290 -21 %
France
355,784 251,441 -29 %
Estonia
249,519 220,265 -12 %
Netherlands
168,417 126,378 -25 %
Others
687,275 517,680 -25 %
OTHER European Countries
79,569 69,749 -12 %
Switzerland
34,494 28,746 -17 %
Turkey
16,772 19,413 16 %
Norway
15,179 12,552 -17 %
Albania
4,200 3,981 -5 %
Cyprus
4,824 3,083 -36 %
Others
4,100 1,974 -52 %
NORTH Africa
1,678,376 1,225,285 -27 %
Egypt
1,156,100 820,610 -29 %
Algeria
304,576 202,408 -34 %
Morocco
157,311 145,687 -7 %
Tunisia
60,389 56,289 -7 %
Libya
291 %
OTHER African Countries
11,122 18,928 70 %
Sudan
9,360 16,521 77 %
Kenya
890 %
South Africa
94 736 683 %
Cape Verde
1,544 659 -57 %
Mauritania
48 %
Others
124 74 -40 %
NORTH America
27,031 56,450 109 %
USA
26,934 56,446 110 %
Canada
97 4 -96 %
CENTRAL America
51 156 206 %
Trinidad and Tobago
51 156 206 %
SOUTH America
31 -100 %
NEAR and MIDDLE East
637,860 723,135 13 %
Saudi Arabia
341,237 410,289 20 %
Israel
267,813 270,269 1 %
Jordan
18,409 28,642 56 %
Yemen
7,682 13,249 72 %
Iran
404 413 2 %
Others
2,315 273 -88 %
OTHER Asian countries
1,843,589 1,521,959 -17 %
China
983,529 774,241 -21 %
Japan
672,165 594,081 -12 %
Vietnam
53,017 51,113 -4 %
Philippines
50,809 32,036 -37 %
Taiwan
22,608 17,959 -21 %
Others
61,461 52,529 -15 %
OCEANIA and Polar region
17,520 7,468 -57 %
Australia
14,743 7,325 -50 %
Western Samoa
2,645 137 -95 %
New Zealand
132 6 -95 %
REST of the world
86 -100 %
TOTAL 6,789,194 5,484,517 -19 %

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