The global position of the U S forest products industry


The United States’ share of global industrial roundwood production has declined since the 1990s. We reviewed data from 1961-2013 to evaluate the extent of this decline for industrial roundwood and derived secondary forest products compared to other major producing countries. We find that the U.S. global share of industrial roundwood peaked at 28 percent in 1999 but then declined to 17 percent by 2012. We attribute the decline to a combination of cyclical factors, most notably the decline in U.S. construction, and long-term decline in U.S. paper manufacture that is connected to a reduction in the size of the U.S. manufacturing sector and waning demand for paper used in media. Prospects are for increased use of wood in construction as the housing market returns to long-run averages in the coming years, which should push the U.S. share to over 20 percent. However, the use of wood by the paper sector is not likely to experience a significant recovery, implying that it is unlikely that the United States will return to its 1990s levels of global market share in industrial roundwood production. Timber demands—not timber supplies—currently limit production growth in the United States. Increased wood demand by the construction sector might occur with changes in building codes, allowing for taller and larger wood-frame construction. The growth in wood use by the energy sector is another emerging prospect.

  • Citation: Prestemon, Jeffrey P.; Wear, David N.; Foster, Michaela O. 2015. The global position of the U S forest products industry. e-Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-204. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 24 p.

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