German sawn softwood exports lowest since 2004

28 February 2014

Exports of German sawn softwood in 2013 fell to their lowest levels since 2004, according to new figures.

The German Sawmill and Wood Industry Association's (DeSH) preliminary estimates for 2013 show that exports fell to 6.3 million m3, the lowest since 5.5 million m3 was recorded in 2004 and well below the pre-recession peak of 9.3 million m3 in 2007.

German domestic sawn softwood consumption rose 328,000m3 to 18 million m3 and domestic sawmill production was up about 1% to 20.2 million m3.

Sawn hardwood exports were up about 70,000m3 to 640,000m3 in 2013, with sawn hardwood production rising about 117,000m3 to 1 million m3. Domestic consumption was 760,000m3.

German sawmilling turnover was up slightly last year to €5.4bn.

Softwood sawmillers' profitability improved in 2013 but DeSH described the situation as still "tense".

Limited availability of raw materials led to a further increase in roundwood prices, in contrast to competitor mills in Sweden where raw material costs fell.

DeSH chief executive Lars Schmidt said forest owners' interpretation of the economy was too optimistic and threatened the viability of the entire industry cluster.

Germany's foreign softwood lumber markets, especially its neighbouring countries, bought significantly fewer products last year, with the only growth recorded in the Middle East and among Mediterranean countries.

But a "noteworthy" rapid increase was recorded in exports to China.

DeSH believes the recovery of the US timber market will lead to more Canadian volumes switching from Asia to the US, leaving opportunities for European timber producers to expand exports to Japan and China.

Good domestic demand was recorded in 2013, particularly in urban areas and in renovation work.

Germany remained the largest lumber producer in Europe in 2013.

"This shows that the industry is well established in Germany in spite of everything," added Mr Schmidt.
He expressed cautious optimism for 2014.