TOKYO, Oct. 19 – Japan’s wood self-sufficiency rate increased for nine years in a row. According to the data released by the Forestry Agency of Japan, the country’s wood self-sufficiency rate rose 1.2 percentage points from the previous year to 37.8% in 2019. The rate improved 11.5 points in the past nine years. The agency said the improvement is attributable to the stable supply of domestic timber from the forests created after the war and its prices, which are less fluctuant than imported wood.
Wood self-sufficiency rate is a ratio of domestic timber production to the total timber demand in the country. It was 26.3% in 2010. The ratio was high at 89.2% in 1960, but it kept declining primarily because of the liberalization of wood imports. In 2002, it hit the bottom of 18.8%, but since then, the ratio is improving.
The agency analyzed that more domestic users, mainly in the construction industry, one of the largest demanders of wood in Japan, now choose domestic timber instead of imported wood, as planted forests in Japan got mature to ensure constant wood supply and meet the demand in the domestic market.
The use of domestic wood increased also as its prices are relatively stable than imported timber, whose prices are vulnerable to the change in exchange rates, the agency said. Besides, some primary wood producing countries are raising their tax on export and having fears of forest resource depletion, and that can be another factor for the long-term downturn in wood imports and the rising use of domestic wood, according to the agency.
Meanwhile, housing starts in 2020 decreased by about 10% compared to the same month last year due to the COVID-19 outbreak. “It will affect the future demand for timber, ” an agency official said. That may also lead to a decline in the self-sufficiency rate, he added.