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Fastmarkets: European Softwood Lumber Exports to the US Cooled in Second Quarter of 2023

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After a scorching start to the year, US softwood lumber imports from Europe cooled abruptly in the second quarter. That trend contributed to an overall fade in US demand for foreign lumber through the first half.

Imports from the 10 largest European suppliers fell to 428 million board feet (mmbf) in the second quarter, down 30% from the record-setting first-quarter volume of 610 mmbf and lagging the year-ago total by 12%. European shipments to the US declined to the lowest quarterly total since the last three months of 2021.

Imports from Europe cooled in the second quarter

US imports from Europe through the first half reached 1.04 billion board feet (bbf), up 12% compared to the year-ago pace through June. Shipments jumped 38% in the first quarter compared to the 2022 pace through March after reaching all-time highs last year.

Many traders anticipated European exports to the US to continue a downward trend through at least the third quarter and to fall short of last year’s record levels. Declining production in Europe has contributed to the fade in exports to the US.

US softwood lumber exports slip

North American exports to offshore destinations, meanwhile, continued to flounder amid weak demand in most key markets. But a modest rebound in the second quarter mitigated the downward trend. Canadian overseas exports slipped to 769 mmbf in the first half, down 3% from the year-ago pace. US exports offshore slipped to 194 mmbf through June, down 4% from the volume shipped in the first half of 2022.

Total US imports from overseas shippers worldwide posted a 5% gain in the first half, reaching 1.32 bbf. Second-quarter volumes, however, plummeted to 575 mmbf, down 12% from the same three months in 2022 and lagging the first-quarter volume by 23%.

Plantation Pine imports declined to 219 mmbf in the first half, down 16% from the year-ago pace. US demand for Pine from South America and New Zealand has remained relatively weak all year amid ample availability of domestic Southern Pine. Imports from Canada also faded in the first half, falling 9% to 5.96 bbf. The decline pulled total imports down 6% to 7.29 bbf.

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Source: RISI, Inc.