Demand for American hardwoods in India expected to return to 2019 levels this year

Total value of American hardwood lumber and veneer exported was USD 4.2 million in 2020

Demand for American hardwoods in India is expected to return to 2019 levels this year, according to the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), the leading international trade association for the American hardwood industry. Statistics compiled from the latest data released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed that the total value of American hardwood lumber and veneer exported to India was USD 4.2 million in 2020, with veneers accounting for USD 2.5 million and lumber making up the remaining USD 1.7 million. In addition, USD 2.9 million of American hardwood logs were exported to India last year.

A closer look at the numbers for 2020 reveal that total hardwood lumber shipped from the United States to India decreased by 35 percent (in value) and by 28 percent (in volume). At the same time, direct exports of American hardwood veneers to the market also decreased by 40 percent in comparison to 2019. Despite an overall decline, shipments of hickory and white oak lumber to India were up by 11 percent and by 31 percent, respectively, in 2020. According to AHEC, there is increasing interest in white oak and red oak as well from India’s designers and furniture manufacturers.

“These falls were inevitable given the extraordinary (and unforeseen) impacts to business and economies across the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But this decline could have been much greater, had demand collapsed, and perhaps smaller, if supply had been able to keep up with demand, especially in the second half of the year,” said Roderick Wiles, AHEC Regional Director. “India, like other markets across the globe, was impacted by the pandemic in the first half of 2020 but showed a remarkable turnaround with two thirds of the total volume exported to India in 2020 taking place during the second half of the year. This uptake has continued into the new year, and we now fully anticipate that demand for U.S. hardwoods this year will reach 2019 levels.”

Despite a very difficult year for business in general and for exports of American hardwoods, specifically, one market that has shown tremendous resilience has been India. With India forecast to be the fastest growing major economy in 2021, AHEC is positive that U.S. hardwood exports to India will hit the record levels of 2019. Testament to the maturation of the market, there has been a continued and sustained shift from importing U.S. hardwood logs to importing kiln-dried lumber. In addition, limited domestic hardwood supplies, coupled with strong and sustained growth in the retail furniture, handicraft and hospitality sectors is driving demand for new species, making India an attractive long-term prospective market for U.S. hardwoods.

“The Indian economy has, by and large, weathered the COVID-19 pandemic remarkably well, and we’re now seeing signs that India is making positive progress towards fulfilling its potential as a major market for U.S. hardwoods. The first being a genuine desire on the part of end users looking to import directly rather than relying solely on sourcing them from timber importers. The second being a shift away from the sole use of indigenous native hardwoods, particularly by the Indian wooden handicrafts and furniture manufacturing industry. These are certainly exciting developments and the American hardwood industry is committed to servicing growing Indian demand for hardwoods,” concluded Wiles.