Log supply into China has increased, with South America and Europe responsible for most of this increase. European supply during Quarter 1 was up over 300% on the last year. Supply from South America will likely reduce as the CFR prices drop in China, but the supply from the damaged spruce forests in Europe will continue as these logs need to be salvaged. The supply line from this salvage harvesting is also not as price sensitive as other supply chains.

Eastbound Silk Road rail volumes increased 44% last month, as forwarders capitalised on “heavy” demand with new block-train services from Germany to China. According to figures from China State Railway Group, eastbound volumes reached 43,000 teu for the month, with the number of trains departing up 39% to 477. And DHL Global Forwarding has launched two new block-trains to meet “heavy customer demand for alternative transport modes and speeding up transit times to Asia”. In late May DHL added another service, from Ludwigshafen to Xi’an, via Poland, Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan.

Supply from New Zealand to China will reduce as New Zealand harvesting slows down in the winter months and many smaller forest owners will suspend, defer, or stop harvesting. There is often a lag in reduction of supply as forest owners complete current jobs, but the harvest of new blocks is deferred.

China can stimulate its construction industry, but it cannot stimulate the markets to which it exports. When compared with the South American and damaged European logs, New Zealand’s radiata logs have superior properties for machining, gluing, painting etc.

New Zealand logs therefore have a preferred status with those manufacturers producing furniture, mouldings, machine edged panels etc. But when markets are uncertain and sales for finished products are under pressure, many Chinese manufacturers obviously look to reduce costs in their supply chain. This means they will use the inferior logs, and this places price pressure on the logs from New Zealand.

NZ radiata logs must compete with the lower quality logs in the construction market, where the mostly 19mm film or resin faced plywood and 90 X 50mm sawn timber is used predominantly for concrete formwork. The building process includes the erection of formwork, securing reinforcing steel according to the specification, and pouring the concrete. When the concrete has cured, the formwork is removed and, where possible, reused in subsequent floors of the building.

Log inventory in China is around 3.8m m3 and daily offtake while fluctuating has increased to an average of 60-65k per day but still down from the 75-80k used per day in June last year. The CFR price in China has fallen further to stabilise at 110 USD per JASm3 for A grade logs. This is the same bottom price point as last year.

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