With recent pulp mill expansion, China has surpassed Japan to become the world’s largest importer of hardwood chips.
Major expansion of pulp manufacturing capacity in China in the past five years has resulted in a dramatic increase in the importation of wood chips to supply the new pulp mills, and the country became the world’s largest importer of hardwood chips in the 2Q/13. Australia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam are the major suppliers of wood chips, with Vietnam accounting for over 50 per cent of the imported supply.
Growing demand for paper in China has not only forced the country to import large volumes of pulp to supply the country’s paper machines, but also resulted in investments in new pulp production within China. Because of a lack of competitively priced wood fibre in China, the two pulp companies with the largest pulp mills in the country, Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd (APRIL) and Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), are procuring much of their wood fibre needs from out-of-country sources. As a consequence, importation of wood chips to China has surged in the past few years.
In just five years, the import value for wood chips has increased from 180 million dollars in 2008 to 1.3 billion dollars in 2012, and this year the estimated import value could be close to 1.5 billion dollars.
It has only been a matter of time before China became the largest importer of hardwood chips in the world. In the 2Q/13, China surpassed Japan with the record importation of almost 2.4 million m3 of chips.
Although there have been sporadic shipments of chips from Latin America, Malaysia and South Africa during 2012 and 2013, there are really only four countries that have been supplying China with wood fibre in the the past few years. Those countries are Australia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, with Vietnam accounting for over half of the total import volume.
Another interesting development is that the average cost of imported wood chips has declined by almost 6 per cent from the 2Q/12 to the 2Q/13, as reported in the WRQ. The biggest price decline has been in Australian chips, which have fallen over 11 per cent in one year. Because of this price drop, in the 2Q/13, Australia exported its highest quarterly volume to China since 2010.
With the continued plans to expand domestic pulp manufacturing in China, it can be expected that shipments of wood chips, both softwood and hardwood, is going to increase in the coming years.
Source: Wood Resource Quarterly