China wants our timber

The first shipments of Southern yellow pine logs to China in over a year left the Port of Charleston

By ·

While many U.S. West Coast ports have been benefitting from overseas demand for raw materials, even some of the largest East Coast ocean cargo gateways are seizing the opportunity.

The Port of Charleston – with its highly developed infrastructure – represents an outstanding example of this innovative approach.

The first shipments of Southern yellow pine logs to China from either South Carolina or Virginia in over a year left the Port of Charleston’s Wando Welch Terminal earlier this month.

The 20 containers of approximately 800 logs are part of a pilot program with the Chinese government to restore limited log trade since a ban on South Carolina and Virginia logs was provisionally lifted earlier this year.
The pilot program is the result of months-long negotiations between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Chinese government regarding pest control. The Port of Charleston hosted Chinese government representatives in April for a demonstration and discussions, which resulted in the resumption of log exports under a pilot program which requires more stringent sampling and fumigation.

“South Carolina’s forestry industry is a major driver of exports from our port, whether paper, wood pulp or logs,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority, which owns and operates the Port of Charleston. “China is a rapidly expanding market for Southeast logs and lumber, so reopening the trade boosts volume at the port and supports jobs across the logistics industry.”

The logs shipped this week were sourced from the Walterboro area and exported by Garley Forest Products, a Mississippi-based company that recently established in the Charleston area to take advantage of the Chinese pilot program. Leigh Allen, President of Garley, said the pilot program means additional steps to prepare the logs for export, but that it is worth it to reopen the log trade with China.

“The key to getting it done was working closely with the regulators at USDA to make sure the protocol was followed correctly. They were a huge help.” Allen also said SCPA personnel also were instrumental in getting the trade going again.

South Carolina State Forester Gene Kodama praised the reopening of trade to China. “The resumption of log exports from Charleston is good news for South Carolina landowners and the forest industry,” said Kodama. “If landowners grow more wood in response to expanding markets and manufacturing, the forest industry will surpass its $17 billion economic impact and its number-one status regarding job numbers and wages paid. And, the result will be an improved economy and environment for South Carolina.”

In addition to exporting logs to China, Allen said his company is also shipping to India and Vietnam. He said that the Southeast region of the country is producing more pine logs than what local mills demand, so export markets help balance the supply and demand picture.

Allen said that demand in Asia for Southern pine is a growth market that is here to stay. He said that builders must turn to imported pine because the hardwood that is plentiful in Asia is too brittle to be utilized in construction. By comparison, homebuilding in India and China is greatly outpacing the U.S. market, Allen said.

“We feel good about the market,” Allen said. “It’s a great opportunity for the landowners in the Southeast, especially near the deep-water ports that serve the Far East.”


About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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