February 28, 2010 in City

Log exports diminish, but lumber shows gain

Better market seen for wood products
Associated Press
 

At a glance

Lumber shipments totaled $223.7 million in 2009, most of which left from the Seattle Customs District, which includes all ports in Washington with the exception of Longview.

PORTLAND – Log exports from Washington and Oregon fell a little more than 10 percent last year, but lumber exports were up dramatically thanks to Washington’s strong trade with Asia.

The U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station reports that the two states exported 697.3 million board feet in softwood logs in 2009, with a total value of $429.1 million. A little more than half of the softwood logs went to Japan, while South Korea and China bought most of the rest.

Meanwhile, softwood lumber exports from the region jumped 17.5 percent from 2008, to 344.2 million board feet. That was largely due to Washington state’s lumber exports to Asia.

Oregon lumber exports are a fraction of Washington’s and have been steadily declining since 1999. That’s likely due to federal logging bans that have limited supply. In addition, much of Oregon’s lumber goes to California, a market hit hard by the housing crisis.

“Washington has not been as dependent on California,” said Hakan Ekstrom, president of Wood Resources International, a consulting firm based in Bothell, Wash. “They ship to Japan. But obviously right now California is not doing so great so Oregon will be more impacted than Washington.”

The wood products market should continue to improve this year, Ekstrom said. And mills that shut down for long stretches during the recession whittled their inventories, meaning they’ll likely have to fire up to replenish their stocks.

“Some countries in Asia are beginning to wake up a little,” he said. “You will see them looking for more lumber.”

While log exports fell slightly in 2009, researchers say they’ve likely hit bottom and are on the way up.

“I think it is encouraging that there is some upward trend,” said Robert Deal, a research forester with the Pacific Research Northwest Station. “We’re coming from a terrible place.”

Ports in the Columbia-Snake Customs District reported shipping 353.6 million board feet of softwood logs overseas, almost all to Japan.

During 2000, the peak in the past decade, those ports shipped 399 million board feet.

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