PHILIPPINE imports of American hardwood jumped 100 percent in 2014, signalling improving prospects for the export furniture manufacturing industry in Cebu.

Data from the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) reveal that total exports of hardwood lumber to the Philippines reached 1,731 cubic meters, valued at $1.2 million in 2014, a growth of almost 100 percent from 2013, which was only 867 cubic meters at $676,187.

Highest in Asean

AHEC said in a statement that American hardwood lumber exported to the Philippines are used for furniture making, interior design and flooring.

The growth of Philippine exports is highest in Southeast Asia.

China’s exports of American hardwood only grow 19 percent in volume last year, while that of Vietnam was only six percent. American hardwood exports to Indonesia, on the other hand, fell 15 percent last year.

Angela Figueroa-Paulin, former president of the Cebu Furniture Industries Foundation Inc., said that prospects for wood export furniture has improved compared to previous years.

“Although it is not anywhere near the volumes of China, Vietnam, Indonesia and other neighboring countries percentage-wise, the Philippines’ share in the market has been growing,” Paulin told Sun.Star Cebu.

China growth

The US recession crippled the Cebu export furniture industry, with many companies closing shop from 2009 onwards. As many as 15,000 workers lost jobs because of plant closures.

Meanwhile, furniture exports of China and Vietnam grew in leaps and bounds.

AHEC data reveals that China’s American hardwood imports in 2014 reached 1.7 million cubic meters, which were valued at about $1.1 billion. Vietnam’s imports last year reached 407,098 cubic meters, which were valued at $184 million.

In 2013, China’s American hardwood imports stood at $813 million while Vietnam’s reached $155 million.

In terms of quantity and value, China is still the biggest importer of American hardwood lumber in Asia.

Cebu companies that manufacture wood furniture for exports import wood from the United States and Europe to comply with requirements of their buyers.

US hardwood exports are certified as legally and sustainably sourced, in compliance with timber and wood product regulations, not only in the United States, but also in the European Union and Japan.

AHEC said that global exports of hardwood lumber from the US increased by 13 percent in volume and 26 percent in value. Exports of American hardwood logs, veneer and flooring were all up in 2014 compared to 2013.

In Southeast Asia, 2014 shipments of hardwood lumber rose 16 percent in value and four percent in volume. Hardwood log shipments of 141,024 cubic meters to Southeast Asia rose by 26 percent in volume and 20 percent in value, but remain small by comparison to hardwood lumber at 512,411 cubic meters.

Encouraging

AHEC noted that Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore import mainly high-value hardwood species like white oak and walnut.

“We are very encouraged by this result, which demonstrates further growth in consumption of American hardwoods in the region and encourages us to continue the promotional efforts of the US hardwood industry as a key supplier to Asian markets,” said John Chan, director of AHEC for Southeast Asia and Greater China.

Millenials

Paulin, whose company Casa Cebuana Inc. exports wood furniture to the US, agreed that there is potential for growth for the industry despite the market challenges.

She said that most of the growth will be from the millennials, or those born between 1977 and 2000. As a market, they are known to pay extra for value and functionality, according to millennialmarketing.com.