A ban by China on imported South Carolina- and Virginia-grown logs is close to ending now that a small delegation of Chinese authorities has visited the two states.
The South Carolina Forestry Commission organized a recent meeting, partnering with ports officials, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state forest industry. The result is a six-month trial period for South Carolina and Virginia logs, commission spokesman Scott Hawkins said.
China had halted log imports from the two states more than a year ago when shipments were found to contain the pinewood nematode, an insect that kills trees in some parts of the world, but is harmless in the United States.
“This is a step in the right direction.” said Henry E. Kodama, State Forester in South Carolina. “Lifting the ban and offering a six-month pilot period of continued log imports offers an opportunity to correct any problems that were present and ensures that doors are open for future wood product exports from our state.”
Under the pilot program, log shipments can resume, but with increased testing and certification steps, Hawkins said. If South Carolina and Virginia logs meet standards set forth by Chinese inspectors, the two-state ban may be lifted so that those logs will share the same approved status as those exported from other states, he said.
The ban applied only to logs, not lumber or other manufactured wood products because the processing of those products kills any pests that may be present, Hawkins said.
Raw log exports account for less than $10 million of the $1.3 billion in international forest product exports from South Carolina each year, but Kodama says a ban of any kind of any product must be addressed.
“Even if a commodity isn’t sold in high quantity, a ban could put a cloud over not just South Carolina forest products, but any other international trade efforts,” Kodama said.
Forestry products are among the top commodities exported out of the Port of Charleston, said ports spokeswoman Allison Skipper. She said the trial period with China is “certainly a step in the right direction.”
Forestry’s economic impact is measured at $17 billion a year and is the number-one manufacturing segment of the state economy with regard to job numbers and wages, Hawkins said.
The three inspectors sent by the Chinese government spent ten days in the US at the end of April. Their tour wrapped up in the Palmetto State where it included guided trips through forests, manufacturing plants, paper mills and an extensive visit at the Port of Charleston.