Southern Pine Species, Grades, Sizes on Display at DELHIWOOD 2023


American Softwoods representatives, including eight Southern Forest Products Association members, traveled to India from March 2-5, 2023, for DELHIWOOD 2023 to promote American softwood products. The group also went with the intention to gain more knowledge of the Indian market for softwood lumber and to establish relationships with leading Indian lumber importers.

Mission accomplished, so say the attendees. Exhibitors took the opportunity to increase their level of knowledge about American softwood species, grades, and sizes, specifically by handling samples that had been hand-carried to Delhi.

Softwoods in India

India is predominantly a Southern Yellow Pine market valued at $9.2 million in 2022, with increasingly significant imports of lodgepole pine ($2.3 million). However, having peaked at $2.14 million in 2014, sales of treated lumber in 2022 had dwindled to zero.

India is potentially an excellent market for American softwoods. The Asian Development Bank estimates that GDP growth for 2022 was 7% and will be 7.2% in 2023, while inflation was 6.7 % in 2022 and is forecast to be 5.8% in 2023. A growing and highly aspirational middle class estimated around 300 million is keen to consume foreign goods, especially goods associated with the home.

Sales of American-sawn softwoods to India were $12.3 million in 2022, down from $14.7 million in 2021, most likely because of an enormous increase in log sales from $15.7 million in 2021 to $48.1 million in 2022.

Log sales were up 110% in January 2023 over the same period in 2022. However, a trend which is not expected to change in the near future involves Indian sawmills and wholesalers marketing lumber derived from U.S. softwood logs with a pseudo grade stamp. This could lead to U.S. lumber suffering reputational damage..

Given this news, it’s worth comparing lumber and log sales to Pakistan, where 2022 lumber sales were $13.3 million, down from $17.47 million in 2021, while log sales were worth $3.7 million, down from $8.7 million in 2021. Softwood lumber sales to Pakistan were $13.3 million in 2022, down from $17.5 million in 2021, but they’ve fallen off a cliff this year ($300,000 in January compared to $2.3 million in January 2022) because of a shortage of foreign exchange for lumber purchases.


DELHIWOOD 2023 Experience

This was the eighth time AMSO has exhibited at DELHIWOOD 2023, and the first time since COVID-19. Compared to the 2019 show, the mood amongst buyers could be best characterized as muted. AMSO collected 85 commercial inquiries compared to 169 in 2019 among an estimate 25,000 visitors and 600 exhibitors from 27 countries and 196 in 2017.

While this could be a post-COVID hangover, it could almost mark the beginning of a trend away from attending trade shows. The good news is many exhibitors were finding inquires better, and more fruitful, than in the past.

Attendee Takeaways

It’s possible the development of the Indian market for American softwood species has reached a potential plateau. As long as the exclusive channels of distribution are through importers, exporters will have customers who are only interested in acquiring softwood of relatively low quality at the lowest possible price. The aim must be to sell higher quality, higher margin grades.

This strategy will require a sustained educational effort, particularly by way of seminars in key centers such as Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, and Kochi. It will also need to involve exporters who may be tempted continue selling through importers.

It won’t be possible to change the channels of distribution/route to market overnight, but if the exporters can be involved from an early stage and can see such a strategy can lead to more profitable sales, it has a chance of success.

SFPA members: Don’t forget to check out the contacts secured during the show and their corresponding contact information on our members-only site!