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Virginia log exporters can ship to China again


Log exporters in Virginia can resume shipping logs to China, at least for a while.

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced this week that China has agreed to a six-month pilot project, starting June 1, under which it will accept Virginia log shipments with enhanced pest treatment and testing.

China had banned log imports from Virginia and South Carolina a year ago, after finding pests in logs shipped from the U.S. The ban covered hardwood and softwood logs.

It made a tough industry tougher, says Kennon Morris at Northern Neck Lumber Co.

Morris said his company mostly exports lumber—which wasn’t affected—but also does some hardwood log exports. He said Chinese officials found nematodes in pine logs that were supposed to be debarked and weren’t. Since the logs were shipped out of Norfolk and South Carolina, exports from Virginia and South Carolina were banned.

Morris said log exporters shipped from other ports or found buyers in other countries, but doing so increased the costs, and China’s ban meant fewer potential customers for log exporters.

“It definitely affected [business]. Either it stopped the flow of logs altogether for mills like me, or it cost more money for them to take it to other ports,” Morris said. “I’m glad to see it raised because it was hurting our industry.”

The lumber business, Morris added, is “quite tough, and taking away markets doesn’t help anything.”

McDonnell and Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Consumer Services Todd Haymore met with Chinese officials last year during a trade mission in Beijing and discussed solutions to the ban on Virginia logs.

McDonnell invited Chinese experts to visit Virginia and see how logs are tested and treated for pests.

Eventually they did visit, and according to McDonnell’s press release, Virginia officials were “able to effectively demonstrate the effectiveness of treatment, tracking and inspection protocols currently in place to guard against unwanted pests being transported in log shipments.”

China then agreed to a six-month test period in which it will accept Virginia logs at certain ports.

“China is our second largest agricultural trade partner, and the ban was negatively impacting both Virginia’s exporters and our valued customers in China,” McDonnell said in the release. “My administration will continue working with all involved parties to see that this pilot program is successful and eventually leads to full open market access.”

According to the press release, the value of Virginia log exports was estimated at $57 million, which was $10 million less than the value in 2010. Before the ban, Virginia was a major supplier of logs to China, which is the world’s largest log importer.

Last year, the value of Virginia’s log exports into the global marketplace was estimated at nearly $57 million, down $10 million from 2010. Before the ban, Virginia was a major East Coast supplier of logs to China, the world’s largest log importer.

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028