By Scott Lyon, DNR Forest Products Specialist
From May 30 to June 2, 2023, eight wood buyers from Mexico, India, Thailand and Taiwan participated in an inbound trade mission that visited ten lumber manufacturers around the state. This event was hosted by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and New North, Inc., and was sponsored by the Wisconsin Initiative for Agricultural Exports and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
While visiting the Wisconsin manufacturers, the buyers learned about sustainable forest management practices, the wood species and types of forest products manufactured here in the state, and how the products could meet their existing market demand in their own country. In addition to visiting Wisconsin lumber manufacturers, the buyers were treated to a reception at the Menominee Casino in Keshena where additional lumber manufacturers from around the state were able to meet them and market their products. Menominee Tribal Enterprises was the host company during this event and provided the attendees with an overview of their tribal history, sawmill and forest management practices.
Scott Lyon from the DNR Forest Products Services program was in attendance during the trip and provided the buyers with information on Wisconsin’s forests and forest products. In addition, he provided knowledge on how lumber is manufactured and answered questions the buyers had regarding our forest products and processes throughout the event.
The buyers from Mexico were representatives from a forest products trade association, furniture manufacturers and building material wholesalers that primarily were looking to purchase hardwood lumber such as red oak, hard and soft maple, black walnut, basswood, birch and dimensional softwood lumber such as southern yellow or red pine and Eastern white pine. In addition to lumber, the buyers were also interested in various engineered wood panels such as plywood, medium-density fiberboard and oriented strand board.
The furniture manufacturer from India was looking to import red oak, white ash, hard and soft maple, and pine lumber from Wisconsin. The buyer from Thailand was interested in white oak, ash and softwood lumber for use in outdoor furniture and building materials. It was interesting to learn that American home construction and wood species are being tested in Thailand and may become popular in the coming years. The tests include the use of a preservative treatment against a termite attack.
Lastly, the two buyers from Taiwan were interested in white ash, red oak, white oak and hard maple that would be used in building construction or furniture manufacturing. The importance of forest certification was noted as a trend across all the countries in attendance during the mission.
All the countries in attendance showed a strong demand for valued added hardwood and softwood lumber from Wisconsin. The representatives were very happy with what they observed in quality and wood species grown and manufactured here. Hard and soft maple stood out to them as a top-quality product showcasing its bright white appearance because of the long growing season and proper manufacturing practices. Another species that the buyers adored was Wisconsin-grown red oak and how its wheat color appearance was unique to this part of the United States. Eastern white pine was found to be a wood species that could substitute for some other softwood products currently being imported from other countries for use in construction or furniture manufacturing.
Although markets may be very good for U.S. lumber, there are some challenges with the transportation of products from our Midwest manufacturers to countries such as Mexico. The DNR Forest Products Services program is on this issue and collaborating with partner groups to develop more opportunities for an ever-growing eastern white pine resource.