Opportunities for US softwood lumber in Pakistan

In early September, the Wisconsin Wood Marketing Team and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Products Services program partnered with the Softwood Export Council and Northeastern Lumber Manufacturer’s Association to host a virtual trade seminar with US softwood manufacturers, US building material brokers, and Pakistani wood buyers. The seminar had 28 people in attendance, with the majority being lumber purchasers from Pakistan. Participants from Pakistan gained valuable information about the benefits of using US softwood products and current market trends for wood products in Pakistan.

According to a recent World Wildlife Fund survey, approximately 6 percent of the land area is forested in Pakistan. Limited forest land provided the main source of lumber, paper, and fuelwood to Pakistani communities. Past deforestation due to urbanization, farming, tourism development and over harvesting caused Pakistan to become a wood-deficient country. This wood shortage increases need for imported wood and provides a significant opportunity in Pakistan for U.S. softwoods. Pakistani wood buyers noted that the population base is growing, and they have the need for construction of over 5 million homes in the near future. Pakistani buyers are interested in finding sources of finished lumber as opposed to raw logs and are importing at record levels from the United States. According to the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service, Pakistan has become one of the leading export markets for the US lumber industry, with US exports to Pakistan reaching $53 million in 2019. Pakistan’s lumber imports from the US are dominated by softwood species, comprising over 75% of the total lumber imports. Among hardwood, ash is the most popular species, followed by oak and maple. Although imports this year are relatively slow—due to the pandemic—buyers are forecasting growth in the coming months because of the renewal of the construction industry in Pakistan.

The primary uses for wood products in Pakistan are construction, furniture manufacturing, and indoor millwork applications (wall panels, windows, doors, etc.). Currently, the market prefers denser wood species. Therefore, US Southern yellow pine is the dominant softwood species imported. The lower price point for this species is also an important factor for Pakistani purchases. Eastern white pine is also in high demand, due to its popularity among end users. Buyers noted that Eastern white pine’s grain pattern resembles a native softwood species that is very popular with consumers.

Although markets may be very good for US lumber, there are some challenges getting products to port from our Midwest manufacturers. The Wisconsin Wood Marketing Team is currently working on this issue and collaborating with partner groups to develop more opportunities for an ever-growing Eastern white pine resource.

For more information, contact DNR Forest Products Specialist Scott Lyon (Scott.Lyon@Wisconsin.gov) at 920-360-3722.

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