In trading terms, raw forest products can be sub-divided between
- roundwood (logs)
- sawn timber
The main receivers of these diverse materials are Europe, the Far East and North America, with around half the world’s requirements being met from North American and Scandinavian origins; although there is a thriving log trade from the West Coast of South America, where Chile is a major exporter. Those areas supply principally softwood and we have to turn to tropical and sub-tropical areas, such as Central America, Guyana, Brazil, West Africa, India, Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia for hardwood sources. There is no set pattern for hardwoods as, unlike softwoods which are fast growing and so can be produced as a crop in readily accessible areas, hardwood trees are dotted around various forests, are more difficult to locate, having to be individually felled and transported to an exporting location. Consequently, hardwoods tend to be shipped as liner parcels, although there are full cargoes in this commodity, principally from West Africa and from the River Amazon basis. Softwoods are frequently sawn before shipment and an increasing amount moves in sawn condition direct to a convenient distribution place in an importing area, rather than to sawmills located in those receiving regions. Nothing is wasted and the sawdust and general remains from sawmills – termed “woodchips” – are also in demand for various wood products – e.g. paper, chipboard, linerboard, etc. – and a major trade exists in this commodity from the West Coast of North America to Japan. Incidentally, the expressions ‘hardwood’ and ‘softwood’ relate more to the type of tree rather than strictly to the actual hardness or otherwise of the wood. For example, Balsa wood which is the softest and lightest of all woods is technically a ‘hardwood’. Conversely, Columbian pine which is a favourite material for the part of a quay that has to take the shock of a ship coming alongside, is actually a ‘softwood’.