As we continue to wade through the current trade talks/tariff issues between the US and other nations – particularly China as related to our US hardwood exports, we thought it’d be interesting to show how demand for various hardwood products has changed over the period from 2010 through 2018 (numbers for 2018 have been annualized from mid-year totals).
The table and various charts below show a steady overall increase in demand since 2010, with some fluctuation from year to year. The biggest jump in overall hardwood consumption within this period occurred from 2012 to 2013, where we saw an increase in consumption of almost 17% in total material. Consumption has leveled out somewhat since 2013, with the 2018 level projected to be about 100 million board feet higher (about 1.2%).
Of interest are the changes in product demand over this period. Pallet material has stayed quite flat, with an overall change of +1.16% since 2010; millwork saw an increase of about +9.07%, cabinets about 13.75%, railway ties about 15.06%, furniture about 25.4%, flooring about 39.1%, exports about 76.5%, and board road/mat timbers about 87.9%. The “board road/mat timbers” category is most likely due to the increase in well drilling activity since 2010, and even though its generally using low-grade hardwood material, it has provided an exceptional and positive impact in the hardwood sector.
Of biggest consequence – in our opinion – is the increase in the use of higher quality materials – cabinets, furniture and flooring – where our regional hardwood species such as black cherry, hard and soft maple, oaks and ash have been in increasing demand. Of course, the tremendous bump up in export demand has been the shot in the arm that was needed since the recession in the late 2000s, with of course most of it coming from China. Though we are certainly experiencing a little slow down in Chinese demand now due to tariff and trade issues, international demand remains robust and provides the hardwood sector with excellent market diversity.