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Individual Highlight

United States Maintains Positive Trade Balances for Hardwood Logs and Lumber

Photo of U.S. Imports and Exports of Hardwood Lumber and Logs, 1990-2013 (Data Source: USDA, Foreign Agricultural Service). Matt Bumgardner,  USDA Forest ServiceU.S. Imports and Exports of Hardwood Lumber and Logs, 1990-2013 (Data Source: USDA, Foreign Agricultural Service). Matt Bumgardner, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Exports have become a vital lumber market for hardwood sawmills in the United States because of the loss of domestic furniture manufacturing and the steep downturn in U.S. housing construction. Strong export markets for hardwood logs also can benefit timberland owners. Given the importance of export markets to demand for U.S. hardwoods, recent research sought to determine the competitive position of the United States in international hardwood lumber and logs markets, assessing the U.S. trade balance in these products. The United States has maintained a positive trade balance for both hardwood logs and lumber since 1990, but the global sources and destinations for these products have changed, sometimes in dramatic fashion.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Bumgardner, MattLuppold, William
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 623

Summary

U.S. hardwood log and lumber exports surged in the 1970s in response to adoption of floating exchange rates for international currencies. Since then, the value of U.S. hardwood imports and exports have fluctuated in terms of sources and destinations. Recent analyses by Forest Service scientists determined U.S. trade balances in hardwood logs and lumber, and changes in global markets for these products. In 1990, the United States exported six times more hardwood lumber than it imported, with Canada (25 percent) and Japan (17 percent) the most important markets. By 2013, almost half (45 percent) of U.S. hardwood lumber exports went to China, with Canada dropping to second (14 percent) and Vietnam growing to third (8 percent). The U.S. trade balance for hardwood lumber remained positive in 2013, with exports four times higher than imports. For logs, the United States has consistently maintained a positive trade balance, exporting 23 times more than it imported in 2013. The outlook for U.S. hardwood log and lumber trade remains positive. Timber availability, transportation advantages, and a modern sawmilling industry have allowed the United States to hold a comparative advantage in hardwood production.