Selective Cuttings

Russian lumber exports do not seem to have benefited from log export restrictions

August 19, 2013

Russia is endowed with abundant forest resources and strategic geographical access to Asian and European markets. During the 1997 to 2007 period, Russia’s softwood log and lumber exports significantly increased, with a three fold gain in softwood log exports and steady increases in lumber exports.

But then, in 2008, Russia imposed a 25% softwood log export tax with the goal of building a stronger domestic lumber manufacturing sector. This caused a sharp decline in Russian softwood log exports, and between 2008 and 2012 log exports returned all the way to 1997 levels. Russia’s market share in China, one of its largest log export markets, fell from a peak of 90% in 2007 to 37% in 2012. Most of this lost share was taken up by rapidly increased log exports from New Zealand and the United States.

Log and lumber exports from Russia

 This chart shows the trend of Russia’s softwood log and lumber exports from 1997 to 2012. Russia’s softwood log and lumber exports had significantly increased from 1997 to 2007. However, Russia experienced a free fall in softwood log exports after implementing a softwood log export tax in 2008. Despite suffering heavy losses in log exports, Russia’s softwood lumber exports only marginally improved from 2007 to 2012.

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Despite major reductions in log exports, Russia’s softwood lumber exports did not appear to make a corresponding increase. Growth in lumber exports has continued at the same rate as before the export restriction policy introduction.

Russia again changed its log export policies for its accession to the World Trade Organization in 2012. The new system replaces the 25% log export tariff with a combination of quotas and taxes. This was accompanied by a decline in lumber exports. However, it remains to be seen whether these two events are connected, as there was an even larger drop in log exports in 2012.