American species gaining popularity in Australia
Over the past few years, and particularly during the past two years, as the US and Australian dollars have remained close to parity, demand for American hardwoods in Australia has grown significantly.
In 2011, total shipments of US hardwood lumber to Australia and New Zealand reached 10,268 m3 in volume and USD 8.95 million in value, signalling a rise of 15% and 20% respectively over the previous year. To Australia alone, the volume of shipments grew by 36% to 7,701 m3, while a decrease of 22% was seen in shipments to New Zealand during the period.
While the two markets are closely linked in many ways and while some trans-Tasman trade in US hardwoods takes place, they are very different in terms of current economic performance and stability. While Australia continues to reap the rewards of its minerals boom, New Zealand is officially in recession, following a series of devastating earthquakes and slower overseas demand for manufactured products. Furthermore, in Australia, access to native hardwood species is declining due to increasingly strict Government legislation. This is helping to open up the market to imported species.
In terms of US hardwood veneers, a total of USD 3.13 million were exported to Australia and New Zealand last year, rising by 101% from 2010. The vast majority of this was shipped to Australia (USD 2.86 million) and the main species were white oak, walnut and maple.
White oak continued to dominate exports of US hardwood lumber to both markets in 2011, with 80% of all shipments to Australia being accounted for by the species. White oak has become a commonly specified item for flooring, stairs, joinery and furniture and its plain sawn grain pattern and colour is reported to provide a welcome change from some of the native Australian hardwood species. However, more recently, interest has been shown in a few other species, including red oak and tulipwood and it is expected that this will increase as American hardwoods become better known.