US states laud China's lifting of ban on hardwood logs

Updated: 2013-09-16 06:01


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China's lifting of a total ban on hardwood logs from Virginia and South Carolina will "re-energize" log exports from that US region, wood-products industry officials said.

"This is exciting news because it always is beneficial for American landowners and forest products companies when other countries lift restrictions on our products", said Tom Inman, president of Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc, a North Carolina-based trade association.

US states laud China's lifting of ban on hardwood logs

A man works at a timber market in Yichang, Hubei province in a file photo. [Photo/Asianewsphoto]

China had banned hardwood and softwood exported through the Port of Virginia and the Port of Charleston, South Carolina, in April 2011 after discovering nematodes — string-like worms that cause pine wilt — in a shipment.

Capping off a year of negotiations between state and Chinese officials, China in June 2012 began allowing limited exports of hardwoods and softwoods as shipments continued to be treated and tested. By September of that year, China informed the US Department of Agriculture that the pests were effectively controlled in hardwood logs, even though the risk of softwood logs carrying pinewood nematode still remained "very high".

By May 31 of this year, Chinese officials reported that they made two interceptions of pests in 57 shipments of hardwood logs, and two interceptions of pinewood nematode in three shipments of softwood logs.

Even though the total hardwood ban was finally lifted last Sunday, the ban on softwood logs remains in effect.

In an interview, Inman said the ban's end "provides another valuable customer to companies exporting logs and another market for landowners to sell products". In a free market system, he said, "it is valuable to have as many markets as possible".

US hardwoods, especially those from the Appalachian Mountain region of Virginia and South Carolina, hold special appeal for buyers because of their reputation as a sustainable resource with a growth to removal ratio of more than 2-to-1, Enman said. "This hardwood lumber provides the resource for thousands of products used every day around the world," he said.

Kip Howlett, president of the Virginia-based Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association, said reopening the Chinese market to Virginia logs will be important for Virginia forest landowners and log dealers, "as China is the world's largest log consumer by far".

Rodney W. Oliver, interim executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, credited federal and state efforts to get the ban lifted. The ban's end "will reenergize this piece of export business," Oliver said in a statement on the Port of Virginia website. He said lifting the ban "reopens an important market for companies that export hardwood logs to China via the Port of Virginia."

China is Virginia's second-largest export market and South Carolina's third.

At the time of the ban, US timber exports to China were surging, as Chinese buyers turned to the US and Canada for wood amid the country's construction boom.

China's timber imports brought relief to an industry still depressed because of weakness in the US housing market. After being fueled by the nationwide housing boom for much of the last decade, the US timber industry was hit by the property bust in 2008. To cope with the decline in domestic demand, many timber companies slashed costs by closing mills.