Record Caribbean demand sets pace for US treated lumber exports

High demand meant that US treated lumber exports to the Caribbean set a record in 2022

US exports of Southern Pine treated lumber to the Caribbean set a record in 2022. Shipments reached 112 million board feet (mmbf), jumping 25% from 2021 and surpassing the 2018 record of 100 mmbf.

Scorching demand from the region fueled a 10% hike in total US treated lumber sales to non-Canadian destinations, which climbed to 199 mmbf. Total offshore shipments were the third highest on record, lagging only 243 mmbf in 2017 and 210 mmbf in 2018.

Soaring exports to China contributed heavily to the 2017 record volume. Shipments to China hit a record-shattering 83 mmbf that year and sustained a historically high level the following year.

Chinese demand for US treated lumber plunged during the pandemic years and has yet to recover in the post-pandemic era. Deliveries faded to trace volumes in 2022. The Caribbean accounted for 56% of total US treated lumber exports to offshore destinations last year, up from 49% in 2021. Exports to most Pacific Rim countries and Middle Eastern destinations declined last year.

Last year’s surge in Caribbean demand for treated lumber represented a stark contrast to a sharp decline in Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) bright stock exports to the region. Non-treated Southern Pine shipments to Caribbean destinations plunged to 116 mmbf last year, down 22% from 2021 and the lowest annual total since 2009.

Some US-based Southern Pine exporters noted that Caribbean demand for treated lumber overwhelmed capacity at treating facilities within the region.

Treating plants in Jamaica, Trinidad, and Puerto Rico were unable to keep up with demand. As a result, a growing number of importers shifted to treating bright stock in Mobile, Alabama, or other facilities in the South before shipping the loads to destinations throughout the Caribbean. The shift was especially prevalent in the Dominican Republic.

Jamaica overtook the Leeward-Windward Islands as the most common Caribbean destination for US treated lumber last year. Shipments to that country jumped 55% to 27 mmbf.

Exports to the Leeward-Windward Islands, which had been the region leader the previous three years, climbed to just under 27 mmbf, up 6% from 2021. Exports to the Dominican Republic more than doubled, reaching 10 mmbf. Deliveries to the Bahamas, Barbados, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago all posted moderate increases last year.

However, last year’s record pace has not sustained itself so far in 2023. January shipments to the region slipped 5%. A continued surge in exports to the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago offset steep January declines to most other destinations.

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