Selective Cuttings

Leading global wood product exporters

August 14, 2013

We periodically like to provide an update on how Canada’s wood product exports stack up next to other countries, both in terms of relative size, but also type and significance. The table below lists the top-10 wood product exporters. Together, they accounted for 65% of total wood exports in 2012.

Top-10 exporting countries of wood products (code 44 of the Harmonized System of the World Customs Organization) (2012)
Country Country share of total wood exports Value
(C$ billion)
Wood share of country exports Largest wood export Trade balance
China 12.6% 12.3 0.6% Panels -
Canada 10.2% 10.0 2.2% Lumber +
Germany 8.5% 8.3 1.0% Fiberboard -
U.S.A. 8.0% 7.9 0.5% Lumber -
Russia 6.5% 6.3 1.8% Lumber +
Austria 4.8% 4.7 2.9% Lumber +
Sweden 4.5% 4.4 2.5% Lumber +
Poland 3.6% 3.5 1.9% Joinery +
Indonesia 3.5% 3.4 1.8% Panels +
Finland 2.8% 2.8 3.8% Lumber +

In 2012, Canada was the second largest exporter of wood products in the world, behind China, ahead of Germany and the U.S.A.

One measure of how important solid wood trade is to countries’ exports is what percentage wood products make up of a country’s total exports. At 2.2%, Canada’s export mix is much more reliant on wood products than China, the U.S. or Germany. Finland has the highest reliance on wood exports, at 3.8% of their total exports.

While firms in each of these countries export a range of wood products, a certain amount of specialization can be detected by looking at the largest wood export from each country: softwood lumber is the dominant export in most of these countries, while panels are the largest share from China and Indonesia, fibreboard from Germany, and joinery products from Poland.

Overall, it’s worthwhile dividing the top-10 into two groups: net exporters (Canada, Russia, Austria, Sweden, Poland, Indonesia and Finland) and net importers (China, Germany and the U.S.A.). The net importers are characterized by being leading global manufacturing centers. Each imports large volumes of wood for processing into domestically consumed goods. Economies of scale and trade networks then allow them to export some of these as finished products – but not enough to balance the cost of the imports.

The net exporters are characterized by fibre surplus, which allows them to export large volumes of wood products that make up a significant extent of their total exports, and tend to have a reputation for natural resource commodity export in general. The resource endowment of these countries (relative to their populations) encourages them to pursue this comparative advantage.

Overall, Canada remains one of the leading wood product exporting countries in the world, and the leading net exporter.