Where does the global wood industry go in the post-pandemic era? This is a topic that most professionals in the wood industry are very concerned about. Recently, the timber industry media conducted a remote interview with Mr. Mike Snow, the executive director of the American Hardwood Export Council, on the current situation and future development of the North American hardwood industry under the influence of the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Mike Snow is concerned about the Chinese wood business. He expressed his views and opinions very frankly on the main hot issues.
About the impact of the coronavirus on exports to China
[Question]: The Covid-19 pandemic is spreading on a large scale. Will this affect the export of American hardwood to China? What measures does AHEC take in order to mitigate the adverse effects and promote exports to China?
[Mr. Mike Snow]: With its products and more than 1 million jobs, the American hardwood industry is very important to the American economy. Because of this, American hardwood producers are classified as “basic industries”, allowing them to continue to operate at maximum capacity during the outbreak of Covid-19, as long as they ensure safe operation. Based on this, meeting the needs of buyers in China and other parts of the world is not a problem. Although China still has travel restrictions and may not be able to trade in China in person, American hardwood products can still be widely purchased and imported into China.
[Question]: Please tell us about the latest situation of US hardwood exports to China?
[Mr. Mike Snow]: In 2017, the United States exported more than 1.5 billion U.S. dollars of hardwood lumber to China, setting a record for bilateral trade. Since then until this year, the market has been facing challenges, but in the first half of 2020, the U.S. exported hardwood lumber to China over US$400 million. Although exports are currently recovering slowly, with the cancellation of tariffs in the first phase of the China-US economic and trade agreement and China’s broader economic recovery after the control of the coronavirus, we have seen very positive signs.
About the global market outlook and export status of hardwood
[Question]: What is the global market outlook for American hardwoods?
[Mr. Mike Snow]: The global market performance of American hardwood products has always been relatively stable, but the outbreak of Covid-19 has affected the output of the manufacturing industry, because many stores have been closed and consumer spending is declining. We believe that once life begins to return to normal and people want to invest in improving their home environment, buying new furniture, and even adding equipment to brand new houses, we will see the strong delayed demand released. After China, our major export markets are Canada, Vietnam, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
[Question]: Please tell us about the current US hardwood exports to the global market.
[Mr. Mike Snow]: The United States is the world’s largest producer and exporter of hardwood, and exports more than US$3 billion of hardwood products every year. China is the largest export market for American hardwoods and the world’s largest producer of furniture and flooring. In 2017, the U.S. exports of hardwood lumber to China exceeded US$1.5 billion. Affected by trade difficulties and the continued impact of the pandemic, China’s timber imports have generally declined, but China is still our largest hardwood trading partner. After China, our major export markets are Canada, Vietnam, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
About the environmental protection of hardwood
[Question]: The world is facing the problem of lack of timber resources, so what are the main ways to achieve the sustainable development of hardwood in the United States? In the next ten years, what are the new prospects for American hardwood in terms of environmental protection, sustainable development, and expansion of new applications?
[Mr. Mike Snow]: In the past 100 years, the American hardwood industry has been working closely with foresters and landowners to ensure that the trees we use are harvested in a sustainable manner and that the wood make the most of it. In the future, we expect that the forest area in the United States will continue to expand, because we have always maintained the ratio of tree growth to felling at a good level of 2:1. This means that as long as one tree in the forest is felled or died naturally, there will be two new trees grown in their original places.
About the advantages of hardwood
[Question]: Gabonese timber and Russian timber can be said to be the main competitors of American hardwood in the Chinese market. Compared with them, what are the core advantages of American hardwood?
[Mr. Mike Snow]: U.S. hardwood products are legally purchased. This has been proven by a number of academic peer-reviewed studies, including the recent Seneca Creek risk assessment, which points out the risks of buying illegally logged products in the United States Minimal. In addition, there are many types of American hardwoods, with different texture patterns and colors, which can provide reliable commercial quantities. The forest area in the United States is expanding, so there is no global problem of deforestation when using American hardwood.
[Question]: China’s furniture industry is booming, and at the same time, the demand for wood is increasing day by day. How long is the growth cycle of American hardwoods and what is the annual output? Which tree species are more popular in China?
[Mr. Mike Snow]: There are many species of hardwood trees in the United States, which are widely distributed, and their growth cycles are therefore different. Red oak and white oak may take 80 years to fully mature, while Liriodendron tulipifera grows faster and is fully mature in about 50 to 60 years. At the same time, the growth cycle is also affected by climate and forest latitude. Last year, the production of hardwood lumber in the United States was about 8 billion board feet (equivalent to 18.88 million cubic meters), enough to fill 250,000 full-size containers. Even if the trees grow slowly, the vast forest area and selective logging principles in the United States allow us to cut down only mature trees and let young trees grow in place. At present, the growth to felling ratio of American hardwood forests exceeds 2:1, which means that every time a tree dies or is felled, two or more new trees will rise from the ground. In China, the most popular tree species is red oak, which is also the most productive hardwood in American forests. Other popular varieties are white oak, walnut, tulip tree, ash, cherry, maple, western red birch and walnut.
About the American Hardwood Export Council
The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) is a representative international chamber of commerce dedicated to introducing American hardwood managed by sustainable development models (also known as “American hardwood”) to global traders and consumers; conveying environmental protection to the industry concept; provide technical guidance and related supply information to architects, designers, engineers, real estate developers and furniture manufacturing industries. Members include American hardwood exporters and most of the major American hardwood products trade associations. The exporter members of the American Hardwood Export Council provide a whole series of American hardwood products to the world to fully meet the market demand for American hardwood products.
The Southeast Asia and Greater China Office of the American Hardwood Export Council was established in Hong Kong in 1992. The Southeast Asia and Greater China Office of the American Hardwood Export Council is responsible for the promotion of the nine major Asian markets, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
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