Top Ten Sources of Softwood Lumber Imports

    The softwood lumber trade dispute between the U.S. and Canada has sent prices significantly higher in the first seven months of 2017.  The Random Lengths Composite Price—a weighted-average measure consisting of multiple species and dimensions of softwood lumber products—increased 14% over just three weeks in February.  Certain framing lumber—such as spruce-pine-fir (S-P-F) studs—remains 40% more expensive than it was seven months ago.

    While Canada is historically our largest foreign source of framing lumber, the U.S. imports softwood from more 50 countries.  Though Canada supplies the largest share, as prices increase, so too does the financial incentive for companies in other countries to export their products to the United States.  The table below shows the top ten foreign sources of softwood lumber in 2017, year-to-date.[1]

    Source: U.S. International Trade Commission

    The following table lists the ten biggest exporters of softwood lumber to the U.S. over the same period in 2016.

    Source: U.S. International Trade Commission

    The two lists are remarkably similar in terms of countries, but closer comparison offers insight into the differences between the two.  The effects of higher prices resulting from the trade dispute are crystal clear.

    While imports from Canada increased 12% in 2017, the increase is small compared to those of imports from other large suppliers.  Of the nine countries that round out the ten biggest suppliers, seven have increased exports to the U.S. by at least 20%.  In fact, non-Canadian softwood lumber imports hit a 10-year high in the first quarter of 2017, primarily due to the large surge in exports from European countries.  The chart below shows the percent changes in softwood lumber exports to the U.S. for the countries that compose the top ten.

    [1] Tables have been made using the customs value of softwood lumber imports for consumption.  The “value” columns contain the aggregate value of softwood lumber products as defined in the Softwood Lumber Agreement of 2006 and therefore do not include values of exempted products such as prefabricated fencing and softwood dowels.

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