US overseas exports of softwood lumber soared to a 10-year high in the first half of the year on the back of huge shipments to Japan.

Newsletter Random Lengths reported exports were up 41% at 276 million board FT, compared with the same six months in 2009. Sales to Asia were behind much of the surge as Japan strengthened its position as the largest offshore market for US softwood lumber with imports of 77 million board ft.

Exports to China were up 68% to move ahead of the Dominican Republic as the second most common destination. Other key Asian markets were Taiwan, Vietnam and South Korea, although shipments to the Philippines were down 51%.

Italy was the most common destination in Europe, up by 64%, but sales to other European countries fluctuated more moderately, the newsletter said.

Imports lagged behind the first six months of 2009. Shipments were down 31% overall and 59% from the top ten European suppliers. Chile remained the biggest supplier with 52 million board.