After a sharp decline in global demand for lumber in 2008 and 2009 as a result of the global recession, global trade of softwood lumber increased an estimated 25 percent over the past two years. In 2011, trade reached just over 90 million m3, which is still substantially below “pre-financial crises” levels. China, Japan, Spain and South Korea saw the biggest rise in import volumes between 2010 and 2011. However, not all markets improved last year, and major importers such as the US, the UK, Italy, France and Egypt reduced imports by between 5-10 percent year-over-year.
The sawmilling industry in Europe has not had a good year with declining product prices, reduced demand for lumber in both domestic and export markets, and continued high wood raw-material costs as reported by the Wood Resource Quarterly. As a result, many sawmills on the continent have reduced operating rates and numerous lumber companies have suffered financial losses during the past year.
Lumber prices in the Nordic countries fell during most of the second half of 2011 to their lowest levels since the summer of 2009. However, the bottom may have been reached for now. There are signs that the lumber market is improving in a few countries on the continent and in major markets in Northern Africa and Middle East.