Trade in wood products, 2017-18

​Australia’s trade in wood products has grown strongly since 2012–13. Total merchandise trade (imports plus exports) in wood products reached a record $9.2 billion in 2017–18, up 7 per cent from 2016–17. The total value of wood product imports increased by 8 per cent between 2016–17 and 2017−18 to $5.6 billion.

The strong export performance of Australia’s wood products industries since 2012–13 continued in 2017–18. The total value of wood product exports increased to $3.6 billion in 2017–18, up 4 per cent from 2016–17 and up 76 per cent since 2012−13.

Australia is a net importer of wood products in value terms and this is reflected in the types of products imported and exported. Australia tends to import lower volumes of more processed and higher value wood products, including printing and writing paper, and finished wooden articles. The main wood products imported include paper and paperboard, wood-based panels, sawnwood and miscellaneous forest products. Australia also imports a significant amount of secondary wood products—mostly wooden furniture.

By contrast, Australia tends to export higher volumes of less processed and lower value wood products, such as woodchips (sourced mainly from hardwood plantation pulplogs) and roundwood (sourced mostly from softwood plantation sawlogs). The main wood products exported are woodchips, roundwood and higher value paper and paperboard.

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Imports of wood products

The largest category of Australia’s wood product imports (by value) is paper and paperboard. In 2017–18 paper and paperboard imports increased by 0.4 per cent to $2.1 billion and constituted 37 per cent of the total value of Australia’s wood product imports.

The total volume of paper and paperboard imports has been declining since 2012–13 and further decreased in 2017–18 to 1.5 million tonnes (down 4 per cent from 2016–17) (Figure 6). Printing and writing paper, which accounts for the majority of paper and paperboard imports (57 per cent), decreased to 823,000 tonnes (down 4 per cent from the previous year).

The volume of packaging and industrial products imports has been increasing since 2013–14. In 2017–18 this volume increased to 430,000 tonnes (up 1 per cent from 2016–17), accounting for 30 per cent of paper and paperboard imports.

Figure 6 Volume of paper and paperboard imports, 2007–08 to 2017–18
Note: ‘Other’ comprises newsprint and household and sanitary products.

In 2017–18 the total value of wood based panel imports increased to $684 million (up 25 per cent from the previous year) and accounted for 12 per cent of the total value of Australia’s wood product imports.

Since 2008–09 the total volume of wood-based panel imports has trended upwards. In 2017–18 the volume of wood-based panel imports increased to 954,000 cubic metres (up 28 per cent from 2016–17) (Figure 7).

Plywood panels make up the largest share of Australian wood-based panel imports (58 per cent in 2017–18). The total volume of plywood panel imports increased in 2017–18 to 549,000 cubic metres (up 36 per cent from 2016–17).

Figure 7 Volume of wood-based panel imports, 2007–08 to 2017–18
Note: ’Other’ comprises veneers, hardboard, medium-density fibreboard, softboard and other fibreboards.

In 2017–18 the total value of sawnwood imports increased to $451 million (up 21 per cent from 2016–17) and accounted for 8 per cent of the total value of Australia’s wood product imports.

The total volume of sawnwood imports has varied over the past decade and increased in 2017−18 to 809,000 cubic metres (up 30 per cent from the previous year) (Figure 8). Australia mostly imports softwood sawnwood (92 per cent of total sawnwood imports), comprising roughsawn and dressed softwood. Between 2016–17 and 2017–18 imports of roughsawn softwood increased by 14 per cent and imports of dressed softwood increased by 44 per cent.

Figure 8 Volume of sawnwood imports, 2007–08 to 2017–18
Note: ‘Hardwood’ comprises roughsawn hardwood and dressed hardwood.

Miscellaneous forest products, which encompass a broad range of wood manufactures, constituted 26 per cent of the total value of Australia’s wood product imports in 2017–18.

The total value of miscellaneous forest products imports has trended upwards over the last decade and in 2017–18 increased to $1.5 billion (up 11 per cent from 2016–17) (Figure 9).

Builders’ carpentry products and mouldings, both used in housing construction, together accounted for over half of the total value of miscellaneous forest products imports in 2017–18. The value of builders’ carpentry increased in 2017–18 to $404 million (up 13 per cent from 2016–17) and mouldings increased to $448 million (up 10 per cent from the previous year).

Figure 9 Value of miscellaneous forest product imports, 2007–08 to 2017–18
Note: ‘Builders’ carpentry’ excludes doors. ‘Other’ includes (in order of percentage contribution to total value of miscellaneous forest products imports): essential oils; articles of wood (not elsewhere classified); coopers’ products and staves; doors; household utensils; cork and manufactures; picture, photograph and mirror frames; other household articles; forest products (not elsewhere classified); wood charcoal; packing cases, boxes, crates and drums; ornamental figures; assembled parquet flooring panels; lac, gums and resins; rosins and wood tar; tools and tool handles; matches; shingles; fuel wood.

Other major wood products imported into Australia include paper manufactures (12 per cent of total wood product imports by value in 2017–18)—which are paper articles that have had some further processing, such as boxes, paper bags and notebooks—and pulp used for paper and paperboard production (5 per cent of total wood product imports by value in 2017–18). The value of paper manufactures increased in 2017–18 to $653 million (up 1 per cent from 2016−17) and the value of pulp increased to $260 million (up 21 per cent from the previous year).

Australia also imports a significant amount of secondary wood products, but the value of these products is not directly related to their wood content. In 2017–18 the total value of wooden furniture imports increased to $2.0 billion (up 4 per cent from the previous year). The majority of these imports were from China (64 per cent). The total value of printed articles imports—including newspapers, printed books, magazines and journals—decreased to $955 million in 2017–18 (down 4 per cent from 2016–17).

Exports of wood products

The largest category of Australia’s wood product exports (by value) is woodchips, which increased to $1.3 billion in 2017−18 (up 6 per cent from the previous year) and accounted for 37 per cent of the total value of Australia’s wood product exports.

The total volume of woodchip exports has been growing strongly since 2012–13 (Figure 10). Hardwood woodchips account for the vast majority of total woodchip exports (92 per cent in 2017–18). The majority of Australia’s hardwood woodchip exports are sourced from commercial hardwood plantations—in 2017–18, ninety per cent of the total commercial hardwood plantation log harvest volume consisted of pulplogs for export as woodchips.

In 2017–18 the total volume of woodchip exports increased to 7.3 million tonnes (up 3 per cent from 2016−17). This growth was driven by an increase in hardwood woodchips to 6.8 million tonnes (up 8 per cent from the previous year), offset partly by a decrease in softwood woodchips to 549,000 tonnes (down 35 per cent).

Figure 10 Volume of woodchip exports, 2007–08 to 2017–18

The second-largest category of Australia’s wood product exports (by value) is paper and paperboard products. The total value of paper and paperboard exports in 2017–18 increased to $963 million (up 6 per cent from 2016−17) and constituted 27 per cent of the total value of Australia’s wood product exports.

The total volume of paper and paperboard exports decreased in 2017–18 to around 1.2 million tonnes (down 7 per cent from the previous year) (Figure 11). This decrease was driven by a reduction in exports of packaging and industrial products to 872,000 tonnes (down 7 per cent from the previous year), which account for the majority of paper and paperboard exports (76 per cent). The volume of newsprint also decreased by 7 per cent, to 178,000 tonnes.

Figure 11 Volume of paper and paperboard exports, 2007–08 to 2017–18
Note: Other comprises printing and writing paper, and household and sanitary paper.

The third-largest category of Australia’s wood product exports (by value) is roundwood. The majority of Australia’s roundwood exports are sourced from softwood plantations. The total value of roundwood exports in 2017–18 increased to $644 million (up 8 per cent from 2016−17) and constituted 18 per cent of the total value of Australia’s wood product exports.

The total volume of roundwood exports has been growing strongly since 2012–13, in line with total woodchip exports, and increased in 2017–18 to 4.5 million cubic metres (up 4 per cent from the previous year) (Figure 12).

Figure 12 Volume of roundwood exports, 2007–08 to 2017–18
Note: Total includes a very small volume of other roundwood exports where log type is unknown.

Australia’s other major wood product exports include recovered paper (7 per cent of total wood product exports by value in 2017–18) and miscellaneous forest products (4 per cent of total wood product exports by value in 2017–18). The value of recovered paper in 2017–18 decreased to $248 million (down 5 per cent from 2016–17). The value of miscellaneous forest products— including items such as wooden doors, mouldings, packing cases, parquetry flooring, builders carpentry, cork, gums and resins—decreased to $137 million (down 8 per cent from the previous year).

Australia also exports various secondary wood products, but their relative value is much lower than that of secondary wood product imports. In 2017–18 the value of printed articles, the largest category of secondary wood exports, increased to $284 million (up 7 per cent from the previous year).

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Last reviewed:
20 Jun 2019