Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is likely to impact global trade in the coming months (if not years). Increased sanctions against trading with Russia and difficulty with financial transactions will probably interrupt and re-direct shipments of forest products throughout the world. As a result, trade with Russia will likely decline, impacting long-established international trade flows of forest products.
Countries like China and India, who have reluctantly supported Russia in the conflict, may also be affected by limited trade sanctions. This development would mainly affect China, which relies on the importation of forest products, including logs, wood chips, lumber, pulp, and paper from North America, Europe, Oceania, and Latin America for domestic use.
These world regions are considering expanded sanctions for Russia and countries that directly or indirectly support Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Russia exported forest products were valued at over 12 billion dollars in 2021, and imports of paper products (mainly) are valued at about 2 billion dollars. Much of this trade is in jeopardy.
Russia is the largest lumber exporter globally and ranks as the seventh biggest exporter of forest products worldwide.
Russia has vastly under-utilized forest resources and has the potential to increase timber harvests to supply its domestic industry. To meet increased global demand for forest products, the Russian government recently initiated programs to encourage investments in the sector to both expand/modernize existing manufacturing plants and build greenfield facilities.
However, it is likely that many investments projects in the forest products manufacturing sector in Russia will grind to a halt as the growing list of sanctions and financial transaction restrictions take effect.
Read more examples of imposed sanctions and possible implications for both sides below.
Sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States the EU and others will have a huge impact on the global wood processing and export industries. In Pakistan many timber importers are waiting for spruce and pine deliveries from the Ukraine – without any forecast as to when they will arrive. Many companies are now planning to expand imports of yellow pine and white pine from North Carolina. Contracts with German and Austrian suppliers are also concluded quickly, so that logs and sawn timber can reach Pakistan comparatively quickly and cheaply. Imports from countries bordering Ukraine are sometimes specifically advised against. In addition, there is unusually high traffic in the ports of Slovenia and Romania, which also leads to logistics delays of up to about one month.
North American importers are noticing a shortage of birch plywood in particular.
The Baltic States and in particular the furniture manufacturers there are currently looking for alternative suppliers of wood and wood products – in particular birch, plywood parts and MDF. Siberian larch is also becoming scarce. All of this affects the UK market as well.
Poland’s timber industry also relies on numerous semi-finished products from Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine. Accordingly, some companies fear an interruption in the supply chain. Added to this are the production stops at the Ukrainian plants. However, some also see it as an opportunity to produce the previously imported goods in their own country in the future. However, it remains questionable whether the capacities will be sufficient for this at such short notice. Added to this is the increasing staff shortage, as Ukrainian employees defend their country. Polish middlemen who broker Russian goods to Europe are also looking for alternative suppliers.
“Birch supplies from Russia must be balanced but we can still have it whether we depend on Chinese sources or buy it directly but the prices have started to rise”.
“Wood materials from Ukraine in the past year have sharply increased but the war in Ukraine will result in price increases”.
The shortage of wood supply from Russia may create new demands for alternative types of imports from Eastern European countries. It is possible that Vietnamese wood sourced from planted forests can become one of the alternative sources of timber therefore it can be viewed as necessary to devise policies aimed at supporting businesses in ensuring this supply. Vietnamese businesses that have locally grown wood and relatively stable prices over the years have not had to pay for shipping. Therefore, the local regulator should have support policies to help wood processing enterprises maintain the domestic wood supply.
For the time being, it is impossible to predict how long the conflict will last and how serious the ultimate impact of it will be. Due to this it can be viewed as necessary to adopt timely mechanisms and policies aimed at helping timber businesses reduce the negative impacts thereby contributing to the wood industry’s sustainable development in the future.
It remains essential to have a specific assessment and be increasingly proactive to get the best adaptations for the local wood and forest product processing industry.
Will ban wood exports to the countries from ‘unfriendly’ states list, including the U.S. and the EU countries. According to the Ministry of industry and trade of Russia, the ban will ensure the needs in the domestic market in affordable raw wood, as well as stimulate a further increase of wood processing within the country.
Lumber trade flows changed almost instantly due to Russia-Ukraine crisis. Trade sanctions and restrictions in financial transactions by Europe, North America, and major markets in Asia halted shipments from Russia and Belarus. In addition, exports from Ukraine were also disrupted.
The total lumber exports from the three countries were 34 million m3 in 2021. Over 25% of that volume was exported to countries with current sanctions against Russia and Belarus. In addition, the two major wood certification organisations, FSC and PEFC, have labeled all timber from the two countries as “conflict timber.” This means that the timber cannot be used in certified products, which will impact any country buying wood from Russia and Belarus and manufacturing certified products.
The total volume of softwood lumber that is now unlikely to reach the market in Europe and Asia (outside China) because of sanctions is an estimated 10 million m3, or just over 30% of the total export volume shipped from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine in 2021, reports the Wood Resource Quarterly. In addition, lumber sold to customers in China that require certified wood for manufacturing forest products targeting Europe and North America will no longer be available from Russia. Europe, which imported 8.5 million m3 of softwood lumber from the three countries in 2021, will be the hardest hit, as the lumber import volume accounted for close to 10% of the total consumption on the continent in 2021.
Although the Chinese government has not set up any barriers to trade between them and Russia, it is still conceivable that there will be interruptions in shipments between the two neighbors. Some of the factors that may reduce trade even with countries that have no sanctions with Russia and Belarus include:
-Foreign investors in the Russian forest industry may withdraw their presence and financial funding, making it more challenging to produce and export to any market.
-A weak Russian Rouble will make importing equipment and spare parts for logging companies and forest product manufacturers very costly.
-The removal of Russian banks from the international payment transaction system SWIFT will complicate payments for exported Russian products and imports of most equipment for the forest industry, from timber harvesters and forwarders to machinery for sawmills, plywood mills, and pulp mills.
-Russian manufacturers of pulp, paper, plywood, and lumber can no longer offer PEFC or FSC certified products.
In March, the International Board of FSC International as well as The international forest certification scheme PEFC decided to suspend all Russian FSC trade certificates indefinitely. The decision comes into effect on April 8, 2022 and means that timber from Russia cannot be used in certified products or sold as certified. This can lead to negative consequences for forests and people in Russia, said FSC Russia in a statement. First of all, this is a possible refusal of companies from their obligations voluntarily taken as part of the certification, which will lead to the loss of forests of high conservation value (now there are more than 3.5 million hectares), a reduction in jobs and social obligations towards indigenous peoples and local communities.
The staff of the office and the FSC Russia Coordinating Council decided that they cannot represent FSC in Russia until such a decision by FSC International is canceled, and decided to break off relations, as well as to close the FSC Russia office. At the same time FSC Russia in its statement appealed to all those involved in the certification to continue to adhere to high standards of forest management, but without market incentives, the forestry business will not be interested in continuing a responsible approach.
In 2020, Russia ranked first in the world in terms of the area of FSC-certified forests, said FSC Russia. As of April 01, 2022 in Russia 60.98 million ha of forests have been certified (991 COC certificates, 254 FM/COC certificates and 3 CW/FM certificates). Total on the planet 231,04 million ha of forests have been certified (51’430 CoC certificates and 1’806 FM/CoC certificates).
Trade of logs and lumber in Europe will change dramatically in the coming years as timber harvests in Central Europe decline and the sanctions against Russia result in a plunge in forest products imports.
Central European roundwood markets are at a turning point. Over the past four years, forests have suffered extensive damage from a bark beetle outbreak in much of the region, leading to temporary increases in harvesting, lumber production, and log exportation. As a result, from 2017 to 2021, annual roundwood removals were up 15% and at an unsustainable level. The amount of timber damaged by bark beetle peaked in 2019, falling by 5% in 2020 and 24% in 2021. The volume of damaged wood is expected to fall at 10-20% per year.
The surge in wood supply has been absorbed by domestic sawmills (~60%) and increased export of sawlogs and pulplogs (~40%). Additional wood supply at competitive prices has helped the Central European sawmill industry expand, taking advantage of strong lumber markets in Europe and globally in 2020-21. Increased sawdust and woodchip supplies from sawmills have enabled wood pellets and panels production growth.
Now, exporters and consumers of logs will need to adjust to a reduced supply of softwood logs in the coming years. Central European lumber production will decline from current record levels, and the region may shift from being a net log exporter to becoming a net importer again. Furthermore, sanctions against Russia impacted importation of practically all forest products from Russia and Belarus to Europe, which included almost 14 million m3 of logs and nine million m3 of softwood lumber in 2021.
The reduced timber supply in Central Europe and situation in Ukraine will impact European industry production, trade flows, and forest products prices for many years to come. Sawmills will need to renew focus on conversion yield and small-diameter sawing capabilities, fiber industries should consider alternative species and wood fiber sources, and forest owners would benefit from more intensive forest management.