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A ship comes in loaded with Swedish wood products

Almost 300 years after the Swedish East India Company’s ships set sail from China filled with porcelain, tea and silk, Swedish ships loaded with wood products are now returning. And there are many indications that Swedish wood trade with Asia has only just begun. There are considerably more people here than trees. In Sweden, the opposite applies.

The swedish wood products industry is working on a broad front to be involved and gain market shares both in China and in other growth markets in Asia. These efforts have paid off and last year exports from Sweden to China reached new record levels with approximately 800,000 cubic metres. Even though China has reduced its GDP figures, imports of wood products grew by 2.8 million cubic metres in 2016, and look set to increase in 2017 as well.

"The heart of a business deal for a sawmill or wood products company is to optimise its products for different segments of customer groups," says Mikael Eliasson, Director of Swedish Wood, where Setra is a member. "Therefore we must offer a palette to different markets, at different stages of development and in different segments."

Growing middle class and strong economic development

Swedish Wood is therefore following global development and increasing its presence in growth markets in Asia. This work is managed through the Swedish Advisory Board, where companies in the industry are represented and Setra's Market Director Olle Berg is Chairman. China is defined as an emerging market, has pushed Japan from second place and is now number two after the US. India, which is often referred to as the Next China, is almost as large as China in terms of population and also has a growing middle class and strong economic development. Indonesia is also expected to climb in terms of population and economic development, as is Vietnam, which makes them interesting markets for Swedish Wood. Mikael Eliasson highlights several reasons why Swedish wood products appeal to the Asian market. Our sustainable forest management makes Sweden a reliable supplier, we have well-developed logistic chains and a high-quality product both biologically and technically. Our business culture means that people feel that it is safe and easy to do business with us.

In a country like China, where environmental problems are starting to be difficult to ignore, consumers are now making increasingly tough demands on environmental focus and sustainability. The fact that Swedish wood comes from sustainable forestry attracts the Chinese and is also an important marker for enhancing the image of Swedish wood products in China.

Inspire, inform, instruct

Swedish Wood has also been involved with and assisted the Chinese authorities to develop standards for modern construction. In September 2015, China presented a national strategy for increased use of wood in construction. This strategy describes wood as a green material that should be given priority for climate reasons.

"We have a basic philosophy which is based on working in three steps to inspire, inform and instruct in the new markets we choose to enter. To start with we want to inspire people to use wood. Subsequently, we want to inform people about the material and finally instruct them in how to use it. In China we have already reached the instruction stage. In October, we will take part in a big trade fair in Vietnam where we are now starting to inspire towards increased use of wood," concludes Mikael Eliasson.

Text: Katarina Brandt
Photo: Swedish Wood

Published: 2017-05-31