Wood production growth driven by housing, green energy markets

Jan. 9, 2017
Wood production growth driven by housing, green energy markets

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Global production of all major wood products grew for the sixth consecutive year in 2015, while trade in wood products decreased slightly, according to new data published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The increase was mainly boosted by the continuous economic growth in Asia, a recovering housing market in North America and scaling up of the bioenergy targets.

In 2015, growth in the production volume of wood products ranged from between 1 to 8 percent, according to the FAO data. At the same time, global trade value in primary wood and paper products shrank slightly from $267 billion in 2014 to $236 billion in 2015, due to lower prices for wood products. Production of forest products has been healthiest in Asia-Pacific and North America, due to a growing housing market.

Surge in pellet production driven by growing demand for bioenergy

Growing demand for bioenergy, driven by renewable energy targets and policies in Europe, prompted an explosion in wood pellet production with a 10-fold increase in production in the last decade.  

In 2015, global production of pellets soared to 28 million tons. This represents an 8 percent increase from the previous year’s level of 26 million tons and a 42 percent increase from the 20 million tons produced in 2012.

The Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), which produced and exported three million tons of pellets in 2015, overtook Germany and Canada and together emerged as the second largest producer and exporter of pellets after the United States. In 2015, the Baltic states accounted for 11 percent of production and 17 percent of exports globally. Canada is now the third biggest pellets exporter and the fourth biggest producer after Germany. 

The global markets of pellets were dominated by Europe and North America, with the US and Canada accounting for over one-third of global pellet production, and the UK, Denmark and Italy accounting for some 80 percent of global pellet imports (UK alone 42 percent).

Fast growth in OSB wood panels

For the first time, FAO has included global figures on oriented strand board (OSB) in its statistical database, reflecting a growth of 7 percent in production and trade in 2015 from the previous year. The biggest surge since the pre-recession levels of 2007 was driven by the recovering housing market and scaling up of bioeconomy strategies, including a shift to more sustainable green building and construction materials.

OSB is a type of wood panel commonly used in construction. It is a relatively new product outside of North America, where production took off in the 1990s and is now growing fast in Europe (including the Russian Federation), while being poised to conquer Asian markets, in particular, China and Malaysia.

“Our data registers a healthy growth in the global production of wood products and a rapid growth in production and trade of relatively new products, such as OSB wood panels and pellets, indicating that the forest industry is adapting to changes and has huge potential to become a key player in emerging bioeconomies. Increased use of modern wood-based building materials and energy assortments can contribute to lower net carbon dioxide emissions,” said Mats Nordberg, FAO senior forestry officer.

“FAO’s database on wood production provides a crucial tool in the context of measuring progress toward targets set out in the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, since it can help countries enable sustainable forest management and scale up forestry’s greenhouse gas mitigation potential.”

Electronic media driving down demand for graphic paper

Production of graphic paper for publishing and writing, fell 1.9 percent or by 3 million tons in just one year, reaching its lowest level since 1999. The decrease reflects a widespread global shift toward electronic media and mobile technology. This was particularly the case in North America and Europe, which had already shown a gradual decline in production and demand in previous years, but now other parts of the world are manifesting the same trend. 

Recovered paper accounts for more than half (55 percent) or 225 million tons of all fiber used for paper production. This marks a 4 percent increase since 2013, a 57 percent increase since 2000, and a 345 percent increase since 1980.

Trade in pulp and recovered paper jumped by three percent in 2015 also due to production at new export-oriented pulp mills in Brazil and Uruguay recently coming on stream.


Topics: Associations / Organizations, Building Owners and Managers, Construction Firms, Consulting - Green & Sustainable Strategies and Solutions, Engineering Firms, Environmental Firms, Exteriors, Sustainable Communities, Urban Planning and Design, Wall Systems / Curtain Walls

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