Imports of softwood lumber to Japan decline 50% in January

In January 2023, the imports of softwood lumber to Japan fell 50% year-on-year to 247 thousand m3. According to Lesprom Analytics, the average price for softwood lumber imported to Japan decreased 6% compared to the previous month and amounted to $473 per m3. This is 29% less than a year ago when it was $665.

Photo: marchello74, Depositphotos


This trend will definitely continue as the Japanese government will continue to subsidize the domestic Japanese cedar wood products industry and encourage home builders and buyers to increase their use of domestic cedar species of Sugi and Hinoki. This picture is of a home that is made entirely of Japanese cedar products from lumber, glulam beams, LVL, plywood and OSB all made with domestic cedar. Some in Japan say that with the current expanded production capacity and what is scheduled to start up over the next few years and with the increased harvest levels, it will be close to 100 years before the industry can catch up with the annual growth rate of the forests.

The Japanese government is subsidizing the industry by covering the construction costs of cedar processing facilities by 50% or more through a combination of tax credits and grants. They are subsidizing industrial pellet, biomass, plywood, sawmilling, and any sector of the forest products industry in Japan that uses Japanese Cedar.


Fascinating insights @David_Stallcop!

Are you saying that Japan is consuming its wood faster than it can produce it? If so, how long can this go on before the Japanese will need to turn back to imports?


Why are Japanese forest products more expensive in Japan? Economies of scale?


@David_Stallcop Given the Japanese home building market demands the highest quality wood like J-Grade, is this why the Japanese market is subsidizing these other sectors? Is this their attempt to find a home for all the downfall below J-grade?


The forests are growing faster than the Japan wood products industry consume it. A lot of Japanese Cedar logs are also exported to Korea, China and Vietnam to cut into lumber for export to the United States as well.

Japan’s forests are home to a massive tree species. It is the famous Japanese Cedar, Cryptomeria Japonica.

In some of the forests in Japan this cedar tree has grown to between 150 and 200 feet tall. It is in the same Cupressaceae family as Western Red Cedar, Thuja plicata, and California Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens.

The Japanese government is mandating that more cedar is to be harvested due to the high levels of pollen count in the air which is causing at least 1 in 3 people in Japan to suffer from major allergy symptoms.

The forests are being replanted as quickly as they are being harvested, but a 6 foot tall tree puts out a lot less pollen than a 150 foot tall tree.


Typical recovery into lumber out of 1 m3 of log is about 60%. So, the other 40% ends up becoming chips, sawdust, bark, etc… so this part of the wood products industry also has to be subsidized so that the mills have an outlet for the developing residuals. The Japanese government also pushed to have many of the buildings that were constructed for the Tokyo Olympics to be made out of Japanese Cedar CLT panels and Glulam beams.