Wood working03.06.2016

Sights set on China – Finnish sawmills aim to double exports

Koskisen's sawn timber on it's way to the world.

Koskisen's sawn timber on it's way to the world.

Finnish sawmills intend to increase their exports to global markets over the next three years. Close to 20 Finnish sawmills are taking part in the Wood from Finland growth programme launched jointly by Finpro and the Finnish Sawmills Association. Koskisen Oy has also joined the export programme. The objective is to increase sawn timber exports by 500,000 m3 over the next few years and, in turn, positively influence Finland’s bio-products economy. Funding for the programme is being provided by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy and the independent sawmilling industry.

Good market potential in China

The first phase of the Wood from Finland growth programme aims to boost sawn timber exports especially in Chinese markets. To support the programme, two local experts in China have been hired to help identify market opportunities and forge initial contacts.

China is an interesting export market because of its dependency on imported timber.

“China is the world’s largest furniture manufacturer and exporter. In addition, a government programme that focuses on developing environmentally friendly construction is being launched in the country,” says Wood from Finland’s Program Manager Jyrki Mantere of Finpro.

Finnish timber has a good reputation in China, which helps boost demand. In addition, China’s rising standard of living has led to a growing interest in high-quality imported timber.

“China appreciates the high quality of Finnish timber, which is well-suited to the needs of local carpenters. Finnish timber grows slowly, thanks to which it does not crack or bend when being worked with or when installed in its final place,” says Mantere.

Last year, Finland exported more than 630,000 m3 of sawn timber to China. The total value of sawn timber exports is estimated at EUR 1.5 billion, which makes it Finland’s fourth largest export product.

“Traditionally, spruce sawn timber is shipped to South China and the Shanghai area. Hopefully, with the new export programme, new market areas in China will be found. New export markets for pine sawn timber will also be targeted,” says Jukka Tamminen, Koskisen’s export manager for spruce sawn timber.

Sawn timber demand still catching up to peak years

Demand for Finnish sawn timber has declined significantly since its peak years. With the scarcity in raw materials subsiding, it is now possible to find new export markets, which is why the Finnish Sawmills Association is actively on board the Wood from Finland programme.

“We want to expand Finland’s sawn timber markets in China and better understand the needs of Chinese customers. Sawmills’ production is based on customer needs, the principles of sustainable development and renewable forest resources,” says the Finnish Sawmills Association’s Managing Director Kai Merivuori.

Chinese furniture manufacturers visited Koskisen's sawmill on April.

Chinese furniture manufacturers visited Koskisen's sawmill on April.

Chinese furniture manufacturers visit Koskisen

In mid-April, a group of Chinese furniture manufacturers paid a visit to Koskisen’s sawmill. The visit was part of the Wood from Finland growth programme and its objective was to familiarise the Chinese guests with Finnish sawn timber production, from stump to finished product, and with the high quality of Finnish softwood.

“In the morning, we went through the sawn timber production chain, from sawing to finished sawn timber, and from there to further processing. We also gave them the opportunity to sort sawn timber of different tree species and grades so that they could actually see the quality and structure of the products. Our guests were thrilled to get to properly work with different sawn timber grades. They were also impressed with the scale of Koskisen’s sawn timber production and with the efficiency of the lines,” says Tamminen.

After the production round and lunch, the day continued at Lahti’s Sibelius Hall with a seminar on Finnish design and co-operation projects, all organised within the framework of the Wood from Finland growth programme. After Sibelius Hall, the guests stayed in Finland for two more days, and their itinerary included a visit to a felling site and to another sawmill that is part of the export programme, before continuing on to Italy for a furniture trade show.