China’s slowing economy may benefit Oregon’s lumber and plywood mills by making more timber available at reasonable prices, industry observers say.

Wood Resource Quarterly, an industry journal based in Seattle, reported China reduced log imports from the U.S., New Zealand and Russia by about 15% in the first half of this year. The report is published by Wood Resources International and tracks sawlog, pulpwood, lumber and wood pellet prices and other market developments.

China’s gross domestic product has grown between 9 and 14% annually for the past decade but is forecast to increase 8.25% in 2012, according to the report. “Reduced investments in public projects and a cooling residential property market” have caused a decline in sawlog imports, it said.

In the United States, log exports are controversial. By law, logs from public land — state and federal forests — cannot be exported, but private timber companies increasingly shipped raw logs overseas when the U.S. housing market crashed and took lumber demand with it.

At the same time, China’s red-hot economy meant its buyers were willing to pay higher prices for logs. That appears to be changing, said Tom Partin, president of the Portland-based American Forest Resource Council. The group represents lumber manufacturers and timber producers.

From Oregon Live: