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Authors: Joseph A. Roos, Valerie Barber, Daisuke Sasatani and Ivan Eastin
The Japanese glulam beam market has been growing steadily since the early 1990’s. From 1993 to 2007, total glulam beam usage increased from 199,300 cubic meters to 1,814,100 cubic meters. Japanese glulam beam supply comes from both domestic production and imports. In 2007, 65% of Japan’s glulam beam production was from domestic manufacturers. However, even though these glulam beams are manufactured in Japan, much of the lamstock lumber used to produce glulam beams is imported. Two of the major imported lamstock species are European whitewood and Russian red pine.
Recently, a number of factors have combined to constrict the imported lamstock supply including a Russian log export tax, the increasing strength of the Euro and Canadian Dollar, and increased demand for wood in Europe and the Middle East. The researchers travelled to Japan and interviewed representatives from Japanese glulam manufacturing facilities. The company representatives were asked what species they are currently using for lamstock, technical specifications, market conditions, and what species they intended to use in the future.
The results of these interviews support the conclusion that there is potential for Alaska hemlock, Alaska yellow cedar, and Alaska Sitka spruce to supply Japan with lamstock lumber. However, the Japanese lamstock market requires that lamstock lumber be kiln dried and milled to exact metric dimensions. In order for Alaska forest products manufacturers to gain entry into the Japanese market, the following recommendations should be considered:
1. Organize workshops to teach Alaska sawmills about the technical requirements of the Japanese lamstock and glued laminated beam market.
2. Pre-qualify sawmills in Alaska that have the technical capability to produce kiln dried lamstock for the Japanese market.
3. Organize a trade mission to visit glulam manufacturers in Japan.
4. Display Alaska lamstock samples and literature at the Japan Home Show held annually in Tokyo.
5. Invite potential Japanese customers to visit sawmills in Alaska.
6. Create Alaska lamstock brands based on the established WWPA registered trademarks. For example, Alaska Hem Lam, Alaska Yellow Cedar Lam, and Alaska Sitka Spruce Lam.
7. In addition to lamstock, lamstock blanks could also be considered for export to Japan.