Wood products and services from B.C. are in demand around the world. Learn about key international markets and the export opportunities for the forestry sector.
British Columbia is a world leader in supplying high-quality, environmentally responsible forest products including wood lumber, pulp and other forestry products. B.C. forest products contribute significantly to Canada's exports. We are developing new markets for innovative products such as biofuels and engineered building materials, and for related services, including building design and forest management.
The United States has a long history of buying forest products from British Columbia. In recent years, other global markets have become increasingly important. There is demand for both traditional commodity products from our large integrated producers as well as value-added products from small and medium-sized firms.
British Columbia is one of the world’s largest exporters of softwood lumber, and our forestry sector has well-established connections to major markets in the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Europe and India.
Overall, the United States remains the largest wood product export destination for British Columbia, accounting for 26.8 per cent of wood product exports in 2017, worth over $4 billion in exports. Sales of softwood lumber to the United States increased in 2017, to 16.1 million cubic metres.
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British Columbia is leading market changes in China, where demand for wood products is growing, and long-term growth is expected in wood-frame construction of apartments and commercial buildings. Our softwood lumber exports to China have risen in the last decade, reaching more than $1 billion in 2017. China accounted for 16 per cent of our total volume of softwood lumber exports in 2017.
China is expected to remain one of the fastest-growing producer and importer of softwood lumber in the world in the coming years.
British Columbia companies supply wood architectural services and wood frame housing in China. The vast majority of our lumber exports to China are for non-structural lumber in concrete forming, as well as for outfitting and renovating housing. Construction creates an ongoing market for wood building systems and for structural and appearance grade products, in particular from larger developers and builders. As these builders embrace the benefits of wood frame construction, they encourage other Chinese companies to use wood construction materials, and continue to expand the potential market.
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In 2017, British Columbia exported $738 million in softwood lumber products to Japan, making Japan British Columbia’s third largest buyer of softwood lumber.
The Japanese government has raised forecasts for housing construction well above recent levels. Housing starts have also been growing reaching a record of more than 123,000 starts in 2016. Engineered wood products continue to be a priority in the Japanese market, and work to encourage Wood First policies for the Japanese construction industry will expand the market further.
Niche opportunities exist in elder care facilities, post-and-beam construction, 2×4 wood-frame construction, special purpose non-residential buildings, and value-added products. Our value-added producers continue to build market share with innovative architectural and interior products.
Japan has long been a key market for cedar and hemlock, and demand is likely to grow as work on revising building and fire codes allows the use of these species.
Wood pellets are a growing market as Japan shifts its energy mix away from nuclear power and toward a newly created feed-in-tariff program. Opportunities exist to increase wood pellet exports to Japan.
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South Korea remains highly dependent on wood product imports, with imports of wood products totalling US$2.94 billion in 2016, including softwood lumber imports of US$468 million. In 2017 British Columbia exports of wood products to South Korea totaled $192 million.
Overall, home construction remains at a lower level than in recent years, but starts of single-family homes (where wood-frame construction is most established) have increased every year since 2008. However, multi-family residential construction is an opportunity for exporters if stringent fire and sound insulation requirements can be met.
Environmental concerns continue to influence South Korean consumers as the government works to address carbon footprint and “sick house” syndrome from non-wood construction methods, which dominate city developments. This creates a market opportunity as we position wood frame construction as a sustainable healthy alternative to other building materials and leverage Korean preferences for wood in their traditional home design.
The Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force in 2015, has eliminated nearly all tariffs on forest products and will eliminate all tariffs in this sector by 2024, creating opportunities for British Columbia wood producers.
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The EU demand for wood pellets has increased significantly in recent years. In 2016 British Columbia exported 1.93 million tonnes of wood pellets with 71 per cent (by weight) going to the United Kingdom. Green energy policies in the EU encourage utilities to use more renewable sources of energy, and this has resulted in an increased demand for renewable wood fuel. This niche market represents a significant opportunity for exporters. With our production capacity of about two million tonnes per year, the majority of exports already go to Europe.
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British Columbia softwood exports to India have grown quickly in recent years, from m $1 million before 2010 to $12 million in 2017.
India is the fastest-growing economy in the world with a strong appetite for wood products and a limited domestic supply, creating potential opportunities for exporters in British Columbia.
An emerging but fast-growing market for Western-style products has created new niche opportunities. Softwood lumber can displace hardwoods in specific applications, and Coastal and Interior species can be used as alternatives to radiata pine in remanufacturing.
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Although countries in Southeast Asia are significant forest products manufacturers, opportunities exist in specific markets, both for our advanced forest technologies and services and for a variety of forest products. Throughout the region, consumption of wood products is growing for construction and for furniture manufacturing. Vietnam’s furniture industry is the region’s largest importer of softwood lumber. Like the Philippines, its own forests no longer produce sufficient lumber for its manufacturing industries.
Singapore and some other regions offer niche opportunities for softwood in high value-added building products, such as windows, mouldings and floors. Also, with the growing satellite and suburban cities in the region, demand has increased for three- to six-story multi-family residences and hotel construction, where glue-laminated structural products can meet niche interests.
British Columbia's reputation for high-quality wood products that can be re-used and recycled offers an advantage against competing low-cost softwood producers.
Learn more about British Columbia's export opportunities in Southeast Asia.