Q: Covid-19 is spreading around the world, will this affect the export of American hardwood to China? What measures does AHEC have to mitigate this adverse impact and promote exports to China?
A: The American Hardwood industry is recognised as vitally important for the US economy thanks to the products they produce and over one million jobs they provide.
As such, US hardwood producers are listed as an ‘Essential Industry’, allowing them to continue operations at full capacity during the outbreak of Covid-19, provided they operate safely.
Thanks to this designation, any supply issues should be of little concern for buyers in China and all around the world. Even though there are still travel restrictions and it may not be possible to do business in person, American hardwood products are still widely available for purchase and import into China.
Q: Please share some statistics on the export of American hardwood to China and the current exporting status of American hardwood in the global market.
A: In 2017, the US exported over $1.5 billion of hardwood lumber to China, which was a record for trade between the two countries.
There have been market challenges leading up to this year, but for the first half of 2020 the United States exported over $400 million of hardwood lumber to China.
Even though that is a slower pace right now, there are positive sign ahead thanks to the removal of tariffs as part of the Phase One agreement between the US and China and the larger economic build up after the Coronavirus is contained.
The American hardwood industry is the world’s largest producer and exporter of hardwoods, and regularly exports over $3 billion of hardwood products annually.
The largest export market, and the world’s largest furniture and flooring producer, is China. In 2017, the United States exported over $1.5 billion of hardwood lumber alone to China.
The overall wood imports into China have declined in the face of trade difficulties and the ongoing Coronavirus epidemic, but China has remained our largest trading partner for hardwoods. After China, our next largest export markets are Canada, Vietnam, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.
Q: China’s furniture industry is booming, and at the same time, and demand for timber is increasing. How long is the average growth cycle of American hardwood and what is the annual output? Which species are more popular in China?
A: The growth cycle of American hardwoods varies across the many species that grow across the country.
Red and White oak may take 80 years to fully mature, while tulipwood (or yellow poplar) will grow quicker and reach maturity in about 50 to 60 years.
This can also vary depending on the climate and latitude of the forest in the US. The output of hardwood lumber in the United States last year was about eight billion board feet, which would fill over 250,000 full-size shipping containers.
Even though the trees grow slowly, the vast size of the American forest and the practice of selective harvesting allows us to cut the mature trees and allow young ones to grow in its place.
Our current growth to removal rate in the American hardwood forest is over 2:1, meaning for every tree that dies or is cut down, more than two new ones are springing up.
The most popular species in China is red oak, which is also the most prolific hardwood in the American forest. Other popular species are white oak, walnut, tulipwood, ash, cherry, maple, western red alder, and hickory.
Q: Gabonese and Russian timber are the main competitors of American hardwood in the Chinese market. Compared with them, what are the core advantages of American hardwood?
A: American hardwood products are legally sourced, as proven by multiple academic peer-reviewed studies including most recently the Seneca Creek Risk Assessment, which found a negligible risk of purchasing illegally harvested products in the US.
American hardwoods also come in a wide variety of species, with varying grain patterns and colours, reliably available in commercial quantities.
The American forest is expanding, so there are no global issues concerning deforestation when using American hardwoods.
Q: The world is facing a shortage of timber resources. In the US, how do you maintain the sustainable development and growth while ensuring sufficient supply to the world? In the next ten years, what are the new prospects for American hardwood in terms of environmental protection, sustainable development and expansion of new applications?
A: Over the last 100 years, the American hardwood industry has worked very closely with foresters and landowners to make sure that the trees we utilise are harvested in a sustainable way and the material is used to the fullest extent possible.
In the future, our forests will continue to expand as we maintain a comfortable growth to removal ratio. That means for every one tree that is cut or dies naturally in the forest, more than two new ones are growing in its place.
Q: How about the prospect of the global market of American hardwood?
A: The global market of American hardwood products has remained healthy, but the outbreak of Covid-19 has limited the manufacturing output, as many store fronts are closed and consumer spending is down.
We believe there is a strong level of delayed demand that we will see once life begins to get back to normal and people want to invest in home improvement, purchase new furniture, or even outfit a brand new home.