Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Total exports of U.S. hardwood lumber and veneer to India reached USD 2.14 million for the year 2014, according to the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), the leading international trade association for the American hardwood industry. The statistics confirm the fact that most importers are still heavily focused on bringing in hardwood logs and, principally, teak (now plantation only, since the April 2014 ban on log exports from Myanmar) from wherever they can. Aiming to raise awareness and understanding of American hardwoods, AHEC has announced plans to host lumber grading and design seminars for Indian importers, manufacturers and specifiers in the second half of 2015.
According to the data released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), exports of American hardwood lumber reached a value of USD 1.61 million and a volume of 2,111 cubic meters during 2014. This equates to a decrease in value of 24 percent over 2013 and a decrease in volume of 21 percent. Direct exports of U.S. hardwood veneers to India however reached a total value of USD 1.53 million last year, rising by 18 percent from 2013. In addition, U.S. hardwood log exports to India reached a total volume of 6,134 cubic meters and a value of USD 2.25 million in 2014.
“Demand for American hardwoods does exist and both importers and end users are aware of the most commonly exported species. However, they are perceived as expensive and, in general, importers are unwilling to take the risk (and bear the cost) of bringing in full containers, when they are unsure of how long it may take to sell on the material. In addition, they are able to buy hardwood logs from the United States, which they are unable to do from most other supplying countries. The perceived risk (and cost) of importing logs is far less than it is for sawn lumber, so this is what most importers would rather do,” said Roderick Wiles, AHEC Director for Africa, Middle East, South Asia and Oceania.
In terms of species, the bulk of shipments of hardwood lumber were accounted for by hickory at 640 cubic meters, ash at 384 cubic meters and white oak at 306 cubic meters. The volumes of ash and white oak lumber shipped to India were significantly higher last year than in 2013, while the volumes of hickory and walnut lumber shipped to the market were down. Since most furniture and joinery production in India is still carried out by small workshops with very low operating costs, as opposed to large and mechanized factories, the majority of end users are happy to work with low grade and low specification material, which can be easily produced from locally-sawn imported logs rather than higher yielding, graded and kiln-dried hardwood lumber.
“Of course, American hardwood lumber is also being imported directly in to India, but the reality is that this business has not witnessed significant growth in the past few years. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, there is hope that India’s business climate will be given a boost. With a much needed reduction in red tape, as Modi has promised, there could be new opportunities for the organized wood processing sector in the coming years. If this happens and new medium- to large sized furniture and joinery manufacturers are established, then demand for imported kiln-dried and graded lumber would be expected to rise,” concluded Wiles.