There has been a steady increase in the trade of wood chips globally over the last ten year, with imports reaching record-high levels in 2012.
This is according to the Wood Resource Quarterly, which reveals that Japan, China, and Turkey were the countries with highest import levels, while Japan and China were responsible for 83 per cent of all hardwood chips traded last year. It has been suggested that this is as a result of significant investment in pulp capacity in the country.
Over the last decade, traded volumes of wood chips have increased every year from 2000 to 2011, apart from in 2009 when demand for wood fibre was reduced and global production of pulp fell by around ten per cent.
Between 2009 and 2012, the amount of chips traded increased by 6.5 million tonnes, taking the total to more than 31 million tonnes, with a value of more than $5 billion (£3.2 billion). This figure is slightly below the all-time high reached in 2011.
In addition to the increased demand in China, Turkey has also contributed to the rise in chip imports as a result of the expansion of its production capacity for MDF.
Although Japan remains the largest importer of wood chips in the world, the other nations making up the top ranking list have changed dramatically over the last five years. In 2011, Japan imported 11 million tonnes, down from a record high of 15 million tonnes in 2008.
Whereas it was a net exporter a decade ago, China is now the second largest importer globally and is expected to continue to increase the volume of chips it brings into the country.
Along with the expansion in pulp production, there is a distinct lack of domestic fibre sources in China and so its reliance on imports is increasing year after year. According to the report, China will overtake Japan and become the world's largest importer of wood chips within the next two to three years.
Japan and China are a long way clear at the top of the leaderboard for global wood chip trade, particularly in terms of hardwood chips, as the two countries were responsible for 83 per cent of the world's total imports of the produce in 2012.
Finland - the world's third largest importer of wood chips - has been required to trade with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in order to meet its forestry-produce needs and this level of business has steadily increased in the last few years.
According to the Wood Resource Quarterly, global trade of wood chips is expected to continue to increase in the coming years, largely because the main countries that are expanding their production capacity - particularly China and Turkey - have very limited natural resources domestically.
Furthermore, a number of forestry companies are choosing to expand their sources for supply and import wood chips as an alternative to obtaining local fibre supplies.
As a result, it can expected that those countries with expanding forestry industries will continue to experience solid trade growth in related produce.