|A GUIDE TO EXPORTING
SOLID WOOD PRODUCTS
World trade in solid wood products continues to rise steadily and likely surpassed $60 billion in 1999. During the past 20 years, the United States has become increasingly active in world wood products trade, becoming the world's largest exporter and then the world's largest importer by the end of the period. In the 1980's, partly in response to the U.S. recession in 1981-82, U.S. companies made serious efforts to consider foreign countries as long-term markets. These efforts were rewarded as U.S. exports of solid wood products increased from $3.7 billion in 1980 to a high of $7.3 billion in 1995. It is noteworthy that from 1980 through 1999 the share of softwood logs as a percentage of the value of U.S. solid wood exports dropped from 40 percent to 15 percent. Lumber, plywood, and a wide variety of value-added products now assume a much greater importance in our diversified portfolio of export products. Due to harvest restrictions on public lands, the stronger dollar, and a booming domestic economy, the United States became the world's largest importer of solid wood products in second half of the 1990's. Whether the next decade more closely resembles the 1980's or the 1990's, it is clear that trade in solid wood products will continue to be very important to the U.S. forest sector.
Firms servicing the export market can complement, expand, and diversify their outlets for forest products. The export market will continue to provide greater income, new jobs, and increased profitability for U.S. wood producers. A stronger forest products industry will lead to new investments in forest management, thus assuring a continuous supply of wood and fiber for the United States and its customers overseas.
A genuine commitment to exporting begins with a long-term attitude towards overseas markets. To be successful, producers must be willing to create and follow a foreign market strategy that is integral to their overall business plan. Developing long-standing working relationships with foreign importers will require maintaining commitments to them even when their markets are weak. A scattered, "in-and-out" approach may lead to a few unsustained sales. It is far better to gauge one's competitiveness in selected overseas markets early on, understand the requirements of key importers, and then develop long-term relationships which help solve the supply problems and quality concerns of these key accounts.
This updated version of the Guide is intended to help interested U.S. wood producers and distributors to examine and prepare for export markets by providing a brief overview of the necessary steps in developing a successful export marketing strategy. America's use of the Internet has progressed so much in recent years that this Guide has been revised for Internet use, with hot links to nearly every organization and information source listed. This version will likely not be published in paper form unless we determine a need from users in the private sector and general public.
We in the Forest & Fishery Products Division of USDA/FAS wish to thank Justina Torry, Lincoln Flake, Rachel Hodgetts, and Linda Dallos for their hard work updating this Internet version of the guide. We welcome your comments and suggestions for improvement and will endeavor to promptly correct all errors and omissions. Please send your comments to the Exporter Guide Editor via e-mail to: email@example.com.