Selective Cuttings

Market destination of Canada’s SWL shipments

April 12, 2013

After briefly being eclipsed by the Canadian domestic market, the U.S. regained its position as the largest destination of Canadian softwood lumber (SWL) shipments in late 2010.  It now accounts for 41% of total Canadian shipments by volume, followed closely by Canada’s domestic market (37%), and then China (14%) and the rest of the world (9%).

Canadian softwood lumber shipments 2003-2012 (12 month moving total)

The figure shows the 12-month moving total of Canadian softwood lumber shipments, by market destination: U.S.A., China, Rest of World, and Canada for the 2003-2012 period. A rapid decline in shipments to the U.S. is apparent over 2007-2009, and a rapid expansion of shipments to China is apparent over 2007-2011. Other markets have remained stable.

The Canadian domestic market and non-China overseas markets have been stable destinations for Canadian SWL in the long-term, with only small declines caused by the global recession.  As a result of the collapse of the U.S. housing sector, the rapid decline in the U.S. market briefly left Canada’s domestic market as the largest destination for Canadian lumber, an historic first. However, the on-going, albeit slow, recovery of U.S. demand has allowed the U.S. market to once again become the largest shipment destination. Shipments to China have been stable in the face of increased U.S. demand and rising prices.

Overall, Canadian SWL shipments have increased, but are not yet back to historic averages.  In December 2012, the 12 month moving total of overall lumber shipments returned to 71% of the December 2003 level, up from a minimum of 57% in January 2010.