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May-June-2015

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38 PalletCentral • May-June 2015 palletcentral.com ow has the global market share of the U.S. forest products changed? And how might it change in the future? Those were two questions posed to NWPCA annual conference attendees in March, 2015 by presenter, David Wear, research economist of the U.S. Forest Service. He also researched and co-authored a report titled, "The Global Position of the U.S. Forest Products Industry," that was just released. Wear shared notable outcomes with the audience. The U.S consumes and produces more forest products than any other country in the world; the importance of the forest products sector to the U.S. economy cannot be overstated. In the last decade, the forest products industry has changed rapidly, both domestically and internationally. Some key findings of the research include: The U.S. share of global wood products output peaked in 1998 at about 28 percent, declined to about 24 percent in 2006, and then fell with the 2007–2009 recession to an unprecedented low of about 17 percent, where it remained through 2013. The paper sector is strongly linked to the manufacturing sector: U.S. paper and paperboard production and manufacturing activity both peaked in 1998 and have since trended downward. In addition, the composition of U.S. manufacturing has recently shifted away from sectors that utilize more consumer packaging per unit of output. Technology has influenced solid wood product composition, with particleboard and other engineered wood products (e.g., glulam beams and I-joists), allowing a shift toward utilization of smaller trees, particularly trees grown in plantations. Housing construction defines the strongest demand for solid wood products, and its most recent fluctuations reveal its effect on the U.S. global share of industrial round wood production. Between 2007 and 2009, housing starts fell to their lowest levels since World War II. By 2013, housing starts had still not returned to previous, post-war levels. U.S. construction, heavily reliant on wood products, was affected more than most other countries' construction sectors, and this largely explains the record low U.S. market share in forest products. Ongoing population growth combined with economic growth should raise demands for housing construction, and a return to start levels approximating the 1960 to 2000 average (1.5 million per year) would likely bring the U.S. share of global wood products markets to prerecession levels (in the range of 22–24 percent). However, long- term trends in the paper sector and in technology indicate downward pressure on this share over the long run. Where Do U.S. Forest Products Stand Globally? Compiled by Annette Ferri MARKETS H

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