Japan Seeks to Reinstate Timber Export Levels from Russia

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May 7 – Import volume of raw timber materials from Russia to Japan, which dropped drastically the last three years, may soon increase again said Tamba Tosikhito, the head of the Japanese Lumber Importers Association (JLIA), in a meeting with Russian Dalexportles in Khabarovsk city last week.

Tamba also noted that timber has to be certificated according to the international standard, Far East Kommersant reports. In response, Russian Far East timber exporters offered JLIA to count the internal Japanese certificate of legitimacy and quality of timber materials as international standards.

According to JLIA data in 2007, 2.35 billion cubic meters of round timber were exported from Russia’s easternmost region to Japan, while only 300,000 cubic meters were exported in 2009.

From 2007 to 2009 the total Japan timber import volume decreased by 50 percent and 80 percent from Russia, mostly because of official announcements of export duties increasing (while increasing itself has been postponed several times).

“It is impossible to guarantee deliveries in these circumstances, so our buyers have reoriented to more secure and predictable markets,” said Tamba.

Japanese shares of raw materials used in plywood manufacturing have grown to 60 percent, informs head of Japan Plywood Manufacturers Association, Atsukhiro Inoue. Adding that the “Japanese housing construction market faced a crisis because import volume fell from 69 percent in 2007 to 35 percent last year.”

According to Dalexportles data, the number of Russian companies that meet these criteria is growing now. “Only one company was exporting certificated timber before 2006, now 11 among 16 members of our Association export materials with proven legitimacy,” said the head of Dalexportles, Aleksandr Sidorenko.

According to Sidorenko, shares of certificated timber now comprise 40 percent of Russian timber exports, while among the association members it amounted to 70 percent in 2009 with a likely increase to 95.5 percent by the end of this year.

At the same time many local timber producers are not in a hurry to certify their timber as Russian’s main raw timber importer, the People’s Republic of China, is not asking for it.

“Only 5 percent of the total volume of timber export is going to Japan, while China is buying 87 percent,” deputy minister of the Industrial Development Ministry of Khabarovsk region Vladimir Pankov, said to Far East Kommersant. “[The] Chinese do not really care about certification, and even if they offer lower prices, considering costs of transportation to Japan, deliveries to PRC are more profitable,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, according to Pankov, certification is still necessary to trade in other markets like Europe, where 10 percent of the region’s timber materials are being delivered.