Nordic wood for the growing Chinese market

High-quality Nordic wood is in demand in the growing Chinese market. Consumers in China are increasingly interested in the safety, sustainability and origin of products, says Weiren Wang, CEO of BNBMG Forests.
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  • 2023, Customer story, Sawn timber

China’s timber imports have been increasing and topped 100 million cubic meters for the first time in 2017, says Weiren Wang, CEO of BNBMG Forests.

“The only exception to the years of steady growth was during 2020–2022 when Chinese timber imports declined as China and the rest of the world faltered due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. Now, demand is gradually returning to the pre-pandemic level,” he says.

China is the world’s largest importer of timber. State-owned BNBM Group Forest Products Co., Ltd. (BNBMG Forests) is one of the robust and sustainably developing forest companies in China. The company buys timber products mainly from Europe and North and South America. BNBMG Forests is a subsidiary of China National Building Materials Group. The Fortune 500-listed parent company was founded in 1979 as part of China’s economic modernisation, driven by former leader Deng Xiaoping.

Over the past two decades, China’s economic development has been unparalleled. With urbanisation and the resulting boost in construction, the growth of the forestry and timber industry has kept pace with economic growth. Current forestry production is unable to meet the increasing domestic demand for quality timber products. BNBMG Forests has been cooperating with Metsä Fibre since 2016.

Certified wood for furniture

Like other leading, sustainably run companies, the Chinese timber industry aspires to operate in a modern way, says Wang. BNBMG Forests attaches great importance to the sustainable certification of forest resources. The certified sawn timber that Metsä Fibre supplies, used in furniture, especially for children, is very popular. The company also buys other related materials from Metsä Group for its customers in the packaging industry. Its customers operate in the construction, furniture and interior design sectors.

Metsä Fibre’s Rauma sawmill, which began operations in 2022, will help BNBMG Forests to continue increasing the import of high-quality sawn timber to the Chinese market. Metsä Fibre’s investment in research and development of new products supports the relationship between the companies, Wang says.

BNBMG Forests has set up its Northern and Southern headquarters in Beijing and Xiamen, and has offices across China. By the end of 2023, its wood products operation bases in North, East and Southwest China will have a total area of over 100,000 square meters, integrating comprehensive functions such as display, operation, research and development. It also tours industry trade fairs, to actively introduce Metsä Fibre’s products to the Chinese market. Wang also notes the support received from the Finnish and Chinese governments.

“Good relations between the two countries have helped to create conditions for our partnership with Metsä Fibre. Cooperation between the two sides has greatly promoted the participation of both in the international economy and increased their own international management capabilities. We wish to continue growing together with Metsä Fibre, offering more quality sawn timber to the Chinese market.”

Online shopping is booming, together with various express delivery services.

Importance of sustainability grows

BNBMG Forests operates in three product areas. 40 per cent of the company’s operation is construction timber, 40 per cent is furniture and packaging materials, and 20 per cent is interior panel wood. Recently, its business development has benefited from the rapid growth of the packaging sector.

“Online shopping is booming, together with various express delivery services. There is an increasing need for wood-based packaging and pallets for transportation. As a forestry industry company, we anticipate this trend will continue.”

Alongside the increasing demand for timber, quality issues have also become more prominent. In recent years the growing Chinese middle class has become more aware of the sustainability and safety of products. In the past, demand for high-quality timber in the Chinese market was limited to small, specialised sectors. Lately, however, BNBMG Forests’ clients have begun to look at the origin of the timber purchased and the certification that guarantees sustainable forest management.

“Sustainability is a big issue in China, both at the government level and for companies. It is therefore important for us to work with a company that, like us, strives to provide services in a way that protects nature.”

Professional cooperation

The parent companies of Metsä Fibre and BNBMG Forests are both globally renowned groups with solid experience and strong backgrounds. BNBMG Forests relies on Metsä’s consistent product quality. Wang also mentions Metsä Fibre’s China team, which has a solid network in the country, and provides good sales support. Metsä Fibre has comprehensive knowledge of its products supplied to BNBMG Forests, and both teams attend sales and customer meetings.

“Communication and trust with our customers are immediately improved when we can answer any questions they might have there and then, without waiting. Through communication we can even anticipate potential impacts on production,” says Wang.

Sometimes customers have specific requirements for material size and quality, so it is good to be able to assess quickly how the production can be adjusted and how soon.

“Wood is a natural product, and it can sometimes differ from region to region or year to year. That is why we need to have a professional from Metsä Fibre’s China team or the Finnish headquarters present. They know the product characteristics very well. It also communicates a professional image to our customers which greatly enhances the user’s confidence and love for the product.”

This article was originally published in Timber Magazine issue 2023.

BNBMG Forests

  • One of China’s largest importers of sawn timber.

  • Employs 185 people.

  • Cooperation with Metsä Fibre since 2016.