Imported Hardwood Market Challenges

Written by Jesper Bach

For the month of April, we thought it would be worth taking a look at a few things that are impacting our imported wood program. There is a lot going on at the moment. However, two very important things really stand out, so let’s talk about those.

importmarketchallengesFreight. What a difference a year makes. From having everything available, affordable, and on time to the situation that we have today. Fortunately, we haven’t seen major increases in ocean freight (yet) from Africa to the US, but if you have kept up with global ocean freight you may have heard of rates from Asia to the US and Europe has increased from $1,500-$1,800 all the way up to $10,000-$12,000 per container. That is if you can even get a container!

Domestic freight is not much better. The shortage of drivers and trucks has made it incredibly difficult to move freight. And depending on location, some lanes much worse than others. Recently, we had a container wait more than 45 days for pick up for California. This was a result of a combination between Covid issues and the messy snow/ice storms. The alternative in this situation would have been to ship a 53’ van, but those cost nearly twice as much as shipping a container.

In the Southeast, produce season is right around the corner, so there is probably no relief in sight for an improvement of the trucking situation. One email I received lately noted that for every truck on the road there were 120 loads of cargo to be picked up in early March, here in April that is down a little, but rates are still on the rise. With all this in mind, freight is something we, and many others, will certainly be keeping our eye on. 

Tropical Hardwood Supply. While production overseas has been timely, shipping has not.  In Africa (port of Douala, Cameroon) there has been a 45-60 day gap more or less in shipments coming out of the port.  Eventually, that will play into the US availability of woods from that region here shortly. Most importers were already running low on inventory, so it will now be summer before they can try to catch up from that. So it is really important to keep that in mind and plan ahead on your purchases if at all possible.

Transit times are an issue also with vessels coming from Africa. Vessels have not been following the usual routes lately, possibly due to congestion in some European ports. Due to this have seen transit times almost double to 60 days or more.

From South and Central America, there are issues as well, some countries are taking 3-4 months at the moment to issue CITES documents for export shipments, making it very hard to keep ample supply on the shelves in the species that are observed by CITES.

In general, we expect to see low inventories in the next 2-3 months in almost all species, we are working as hard as we can to mitigate that, but there are bound to be shortages for sure, and lots of delays as well.

If you need imported hardwoods for your production, reach out and let us know how we can help get you what you need. With these two issues facing the imported hardwood marketing, it is more important than ever to try to plan ahead when possible! 


Jesper Bach
Baillie Lumber Co.
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