Structural panel imports cooled off through the third quarter of 2022

Despite historically high volumes, US structural panel imports from offshore suppliers have recently leveled off

2022 US structural panel imports from offshore suppliers cooled through the third quarter compared to the 2021 pace through September, but have sustained historically higher volumes nonetheless.

Softwood plywood imports from overseas slipped to 1.41 million cubic meters through September 2022 (about 1.6 billion square feet on a 3/8-inch basis), down 5% from the 2021 pace but still strong compared to volumes shipped over the last decade.

Offshore supplier movements

Brazil maintained its position as by far the most common offshore supplier of softwood plywood to the US despite a 19% plunge in shipments last year. Shipments from Brazil ran 8% ahead of the 2021 pace through May. But a US federal judge’s ruling in May revoked on-grade certification of Brazilian plywood in structural applications.

Imports from Brazil have faded since that ruling, but that country still accounted for 52% of total US shipments from overseas suppliers with volumes at 734,240 cubic meters through September 2022.

Chilean plywood exports to the US, which are heavy to sanded panels that are distributed through home centers, jumped 20% to 344,049 cubic meters. Shipments from China increased 11% to 220,801 cubic meters. Imports from Uruguay declined 4%. Prior to last year, shipments from Uruguay more than doubled between 2018 and 2021.

Sweden burst into the US softwood plywood market last year, with shipments reaching 19,778 cubic meters compared to almost nil in recent years.

OSB imports from offshore were mixed through the third quarter of 2022. Shipments from Latvia surged to 279,575 cubic meters, up 63% compared to the year-ago pace. The jump in shipments solidified that country’s position as the dominant OSB supplier to the US among overseas suppliers.

Imports from Russia increased 24% to 53,078 cubic meters. The gain is somewhat surprising to many traders because the US imposed extensive trade sanctions against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022.

Softwood lumber imports from Russia plunged as 2022 progressed amid the sanctions after setting records in recent years. Many observers anticipated OSB trade to follow a similar path.

OSB shipments from Ireland, Chile, and the United Kingdom posted sharp hikes compared to the 2021 pace. Imports from Romania, however, plunged 42% to 69,125 cubic meters. Romania has been among the most common offshore OSB suppliers to the US in recent years.

Record shattering prices

Historically strong prices have helped make the US structural panel market attractive for offshore suppliers in recent years. The Random Lengths Structural Composite Price has averaged $868 through late November last year after soaring to a record-shattering $1,010 in 2021.

Prices over the last two years are several hundred dollars higher than any other year on record. The strong dollar compared to most foreign currencies has further increased returns for offshore suppliers on sales to the US, especially in recent months.

Want to learn more about the wood products market? Access the Random Lengths Weekly Report to receive the latest prices, analysis, and market coverage of more than 1,600 items of softwood lumber, panels, and other wood products in North America.

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