Trade in wood products, 2018-19

​Australia’s trade in wood products has grown strongly since 2012–13. The value of both exports and imports reached record levels in 2018–19 and total merchandise trade (exports plus imports) reached a record $9.9 billion.

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 to supplement domestic production and meet domestic demand, particularly for construction applications..

By contrast, Australia tends to export higher volumes of less processed and lower value wood products. Factors that influence Australia’s wood products markets overseas include international and country-specific economic drivers, such as housing construction (in response to factors such as population growth), income and preferences. Other drivers include production and transport costs, exchange rates, comparative prices of products from competing countries and volumes of supply.

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Exports of wood products

The value of wood products exports increased for the sixth consecutive year in 2018–19, by 9% to $3.9 billion (from $3.6 billion in 2017–18). Increases in the export value of woodchips, paper and paperboard (in particular, packaging and industrial paper), and roundwood contributed most to the overall growth in export value over the year (Figure 4).

Woodchip exports represent the largest component (two-fifths) of Australia’s total exports, by value. The value of woodchip exports grew strongly in 2018–19, reaching a record $1.6 billion, up 18.7% from the previous year.

The value of paper and paperboard, and roundwood exports also reached record highs in 2018−19. Paper and paperboard exports increased by 8.3% to $1.0 billion, driven by 12.4% growth in the value of packaging and industrial paper exports (to $807 million). Total roundwood exports increased by 3.1% to $664 million, reflecting higher export values of hardwood roundwood (up 2.0%) and softwood roundwood (up 8.8%) (Figure 4).

Figure 4 Value of wood products exports, by product, 2014–15 to 2018–19
Figure 4 value of wood products export
Note: Miscellaneous forest products include items such as wooden doors, mouldings, packing cases, parquetry flooring, builders carpentry, cork, gums, resins, eucalyptus oils and other miscellaneous wood articles (excluding wooden furniture).

By contrast, the value of recovered paper and sawnwood decreased in 2018–19. Recovered paper exports decreased by 5.1% to $235 million. Total sawnwood exports decreased by 6.7% to $92 million—reflecting decreased exports of softwood sawnwood and hardwood sawnwood.

Key export destinations

In value terms, Australia’s top export destinations in 2018–19 were China, Japan and New Zealand (Figure 5). Together these countries accounted for 72% of Australia’s total wood products exports.

Figure 5 Value of wood products exports to key trading partners, 2018–19
Figure 5 value of wood products key trading partners
Source: ABARES
Note: Paper manufactures include other paper articles that have had some further processing, such as boxes, bags, notebooks, letter pads and other paper stationery. Other includes sawnwood, railway sleepers, miscellaneous forest products, wood-based panels and pulp.

The value of wood products exports to China reached a record high in 2018–19, increasing by 13.4% to $1.9 billion (from $1.7 billion in 2017–18), and represented most of the growth in total wood products exports over the year. In 2018–19 woodchip exports to China grew strongly to $974 million (up 24.3%).

In 2018–19 the total value of exports to China ($1.9 billion) exceeded the total value of imports from China ($1.8 billion). By value, exports to China accounted for 49% of Australia’s total wood products exports, 62% of total woodchip exports and 92% of total roundwood exports.

Japan was Australia’s second-largest wood products export destination in 2018−19, with $537 million of total exports (up 5.2% from $510 million in 2017–18). By value, wood products exports to Japan consisted almost entirely of woodchips (96%) and accounted for 14% of Australia’s total wood products export value and 33% of total woodchip export value in 2018−19.

Exports to New Zealand increased by 8.4% in 2018–19 to $366 million and accounted for 9% of Australia’s total wood products exports by value. Paper and paperboard ($243 million) and paper manufactures ($79 million) were the main commodities exported to New Zealand. Exports of these commodities to New Zealand accounted for 23% of Australia’s total paper and paperboard export value and 65% of Australia’s total paper manufactures export value in 2018−19. In 2018–19 Australian wood products exports also increased to Malaysia (by 4.4% to $121 million) and to Taiwan (by 11.3% to $114 million).

Imports of wood products

The value of wood products imports increased for the second consecutive year in 2018–19, by 5.5% to $5.9 billion (from $5.6 billion in 2017–18). The value of nearly all major wood products imports increased, with increases in the import value of paper and paperboard, paper manufactures and miscellaneous forest products contributing most to the overall growth in import value over the year (Figure 6).

Figure 6 Value of wood products imports, by product, 2014–15 to 2018–19
Figure 6 by products
Source: ABARES

In 2018–19 the value of paper and paperboard imports increased by 6.7% to $2.2 billion, driven by 11.7% growth in packaging and industrial paper imports (to $1.0 billion). The value of paper manufactures increased by 10.3% to $721 million.

The value of miscellaneous forest product imports reached a record of $1.5 billion in 2018−19, increasing by 4.3% and driven by increases in the value of builders’ carpentry (excluding doors) and essential oils.

Increases in the value of sawnwood and pulp imports also contributed to the overall increase in total import value in 2018–19. Sawnwood imports increased by 5.6% to $477 million, driven by higher softwood sawnwood values (up 8.5% to $404 million). Pulp imports increased by 6.7% to $278 million.

By contrast, the value of wood-based panels imports decreased by 0.9% to $678 million in 2018–19.

Key import sources

Australia imports wood products from a broader range of countries than the countries to which it exports wood products. In value terms, more than half of Australia’s total wood products imports in 2017–18 were from countries other than the main sources of China (31%), New Zealand (9%) and Indonesia (7%) (Figure 7).

Figure 7 Value of wood products imports from key trading partners, 2018–19
Figure 7 - wood products from partners
Note: Other includes roundwood, pulp, woodchips and recovered paper.

The value of imports from China increased by 14.2% to $1.8 billion in 2018–19 (from $1.6 billion in 2017–18). Increases in the value of paper and paperboard (up 15.4% to $684 million), wood-based panels (up 24.2% to $291 million) and paper manufactures (up 13.1% to $368 million) contributed primarily to this growth. In 2018–19 China accounted for 31% of Australia’s total wood products imports, 30% of total paper and paperboard imports, 43% of total wood-based panels imports and 51% of total paper manufactures imports.

New Zealand was Australia’s second-largest wood products import source in 2018−19, with $556 million of total imports (down 11.4% from $628 million). Miscellaneous forest products (up 8.0% to $175 million), paper and paperboard (down 22.8% to $117 million) and sawnwood (down 15.3% to $98 million) were the main commodities imported from New Zealand.

Total wood products imports from Indonesia fell to $436 million in 2018−19 (down 1.5% from $443 million). As with imports from China, the main commodities imported from Indonesia were miscellaneous forest products (down 4.1% to $238 million), paper and paperboard (up 1.3% to $93 million) and wood-based panels (down 3.7% to $61 million).

Australian wood products imports from other countries increased in 2018−19, including from Malaysia (up 6.9% to $344 million), Germany (up 20.0% to $214 million) and Finland (up 21.9% to $208 million).

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Last reviewed: 22 November 2019
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