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Export log prices fall as demand in China is not rising as originally expected. Demand in India is uncertain. Domestic demand remains weak as well

Rural News / analysis
Export log prices fall as demand in China is not rising as originally expected. Demand in India is uncertain. Domestic demand remains weak as well
High heat on Chinese construction site

At Wharf Gate (AWG) prices for export logs further decreased an average of $22 per JASm3 in May. The AWG prices have now dropped to their lowest prices since July last year. The CFR log sale price in China for New Zealand pine A grade has dropped to 108-115 USD per JAS m3. Softwood inventory and log demand in China has remained steady, but market forecasts of an increase in construction activity have not eventuated and an increase is now less likely as China enters its hotter months of June-August when construction activity traditionally reduces.

The May PF Olsen Log Price Index decreased $11 to $113. The index is the lowest since July last year. The index is currently $9 below the two-year and $10 below the five-year average.

Domestic Log Market

Domestic log demand has reduced with many mills reducing their log orders. Prices are stable as they are generally set for Quarter 2. The local structural market in particular is oversupplied. Many DIY projects such as building decks and other home improvements were done during Covid lockdowns. Households also have reduced discretional spends. New build starts have slowed. Logistical warehousing builds are still ongoing but these have reduced timber input compared with dwellings.

Export Log Market


China softwood log inventory has dropped to about 3m m3 with radiata accounting for about 2.75 m3. Port off-take has remained steady ranging round 70k per day. Usually construction activity drops 10-15% in the hotter months of June to August. Most commentators think we won’t see such a significant drop this year, as construction is already at a lower yet consistent level. There is also low inventory through the supply chain, so daily port offtake wont drop at the same rate as productivity.

The CFR price for A grade radiata logs in China has dropped to 108-115 USD per JASm3.

China also has increased supply from domestic harvesting of Masson pine in southern and central China and Poplar in Northern China. These sell for an average price of 800 RMB per m3 which equates to 113 USD. The 2020 ban on sending Australian logs and timber to has now been lifted. This was a political spat thinly disguised by China as a quarantine risk. Log buyers in China don’t expect much log volume from Australian suppliers, and especially at current pricing levels. In many cases infrastructure needs to be reinstated and this cost isn’t justified at the current pricing level.

The biggest issue for log buyers and construction companies in China remains cashflow constraints. The construction sector in China has the longest average payment delay of any sector in China with an average of 96 days.

The China Caixin manufacturing PMI dropped to 49.5 in April. This was the first contraction in factory activity since January. The optimism earlier in the year seems to have reduced with the property market not increasing activity as forecast and fears of a global slowdown.


Prices for green sawn timber in Gandhidham have remained steady over the last three weeks. Green sawn timber from South American pine sells for 501 INR per CFT while Australian radiata green pine sells for 561 INR per CFT. The price for European kiln dried sawn timber is 621 INR per CFT.

Demand is low for all construction materials.

Running a business in India is getting expensive as banks prefer to lend lower risk home loans. The disparity between interest rates on home loans and business loans has increased. Home loan interest rates in India are about 10% while interest rates on business loans are between 10 and 25%.

Exchange rates

The NZD strengthened slightly against the USD in the first half of May, but has weakened in the last week.

NZD USD update



Currency graphs source: XE

Ocean freight

Freight costs are in the mid 30’s from the North Island of New Zealand to China. The Baltic Dry Index (BDI) is a composite of three sub-indices, each covering a different carrier size: Capsize (40%), Panamax (30%), and Supramax (30%). It displays an index of the daily USD hire rates across 20 ocean shipping routes. Whilst most of the NZ log trade is shipped in Handysize vessels, this segment is strongly influenced by the BDI.


Singapore Bunker Price (VLSO) (red line) versus Brent Oil Price (grey line)

Source: Ship & Bunker

PF Olsen Log Price Index - May 2023

The May PF Olsen Log Price Index decreased $11 to $113. The index is the lowest since July last year. The index is currently $9 below the two-year and $10 below the five-year average.

PFO LogPriceIndex5-717

Please note these are AWG prices at North Island ports and that South Island prices are commonly lower due to higher port and shipping costs.

Basis of Index: This Index is based on prices in the table below weighted in proportions that represent a broad average of log grades produced from a typical pruned forest with an approximate mix of 40% domestic and 60% export supply.

Indicative Average Current Log Prices – May 2023

Log Grade $/tonne at mill $/JAS m3 at wharf
  May-23 Apr-23 Mar-23 Feb-23 Dec-22 Nov-22 May-23 Apr-23 Mar-23 Feb-23 Dec-22 Nov-22
Pruned (P40) 175-200 175-200 175-200 175-200 175-200 175-200 160-170 180-200 200-222 190-205 175-190 190-200
Structural (S30) 120-150 120-150 120-150 120-150 120-150 120-150            
Structural (S20) 98-105 98-105 98-105 98-105 98-105 98-105            
Export A             110 133 158 140 125 126
Export K             101 124 149 131 115 117
Export KI             94 115 130 121 106 109
Export KIS             85 107 131 113 100 101
Pulp 46 46 46 46 46 46            

Note: Actual prices will vary according to regional supply/demand balances, varying cost structures and grade variation. These prices should be used as a guide only.

A longer series of these prices is available here.

Log Prices

Select chart tabs

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This article is reproduced from PF Olsen's Wood Matters, with permission.

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Don't mention China's new forest in farmland policy. Can't be helping the export log market. Also a tad embarrassing given our great leaders farm to forest carbon finance scam. Remember when you next drive past a farm going into pines our Chinese brothers are doing the exact opposite.

"All of these are part of the top-down order to return forest to farmland (after years of ecological policy returning farmland to forest), and reclaim farmland that had been used for other purposes."……