Many timber suppliers in the Shanghai Furen timber market are complaining that demand for timber for furniture making has suddenly become very quiet. In fact, some have noted that furniture factories are closing early for the New Year celebrations with workers already heading home.
Redwood (rosewood) furniture has a high status in China and is favored by middle-class consumers but, say analysts, demand has slowed over the past two years because of the slowdown in the economy. This slowdown has affected young generation middle class consumers who are now facing growing financial challenges.
Analysts write “the Chinese redwood furniture consumption power is now not strong.”
Oversupply of low quality and alternatives to rosewood has undermined demand and even furniture made from the top species has fallen such that demand for Myanmar padauk, blackwood and rosewood in the Furen market has dropped by more than 30% compared to last year.
Also, from the beginning of 2018 shipments of sandalwood have steadily falling. There have been only a few sandalwood shipments per month seen at the Furen market. Most of the material which can be sold is short and small diameter logs at price RMB80-90,000 yuan per ton. The long logs with diameter above 30cm priced at about RMB300,000 per ton are not moving because manufacturers cannot pay such high prices while demand is weak.
Some affordable redwood substitute species have performed better such as tulipwood (Dalbergia frutescens) (also Dalbergia decipularis)). Some merchants have reported that the price for tulipwood is generally around RMB10,000 per ton.
Tulipwood is recognised in China as one of the 29 national standard redwood species and has the unique characteristics of a true redwood say importers. Analysts say that given the current weak demand for redwood furniture it is the low priced tulipwood which is attracting consumers.