Market Trends  

The Return of Cherry To Asian Markets

By World Hardwoods

American Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) is different from European Cherry (Prunus Avium) and most important
right now the American Cherry is plentiful and affordable. At the height of its last fashion cycle, Cherry was desired
for its warm colour, attractive grain and superb finishing characteristics for furniture and interiors. Today
there are signs in Asian markets that Cherry is poised for a comeback. Why wouldn’t it, at today’s prices?

Wabi Sideboard by Japanese architects Setsu and Shinobu Ito in American Cherry.

At the recent IFMAC wood show in Jakarta several U.S. exporters reported increasing interest in Cherry, while at the Vietnamwood show some buyers were very surprised to learn just how competitive Cherry lumber now is.

The Hardwood Review Global recently wrote: “American Black Cherry grows throughout the eastern United States, accounting for about 3% of U.S. hardwood lumber production and 4% of hardwood lumber exports. Eighty-one percent of Cherry exports in the first quarter of 2015 were to Asian markets and Europe less than 2%. Cherry is a premium species most often used in high-end furniture, cabinetry, millwork and panelling. The heartwood has a rich, reddish colour that darkens with age, while the sapwood is lighter coloured. Colour sorting to limit the sapwood content and reduce colour variations is common, and Cherry lumber is now available in a variety of colour specifications, such as 90/50 Red, (which specifies that 90% of one face and 50% of the other will be red heartwood). Higher specifications (90/70, 90/80, 100/70) are increasingly available.

After the U.S. housing and financial crises in the mid-2000s, Cherry’s premium prices began THE RETURN OF CHERRY TO ASIAN MARKETS by World Hardwoods to impact demand, and manufacturers began finishing less expensive species to achieve a “Cherry look”. By the late 2000s, Cherry prices had collapsed. Unselected Cherry prices recovered from 2012 to 2014—first in the common grades and ultimately in FAS/1F.

Price gains were even more impressive in 2014 for the higher quality 90/50 Red Cherry, though prices peaked in midyear. Over the last six months, however, 26 mm (4/4) FAS/1F Cherry prices have fallen 6-10%, while #1 and #2 Common prices are down 4-7%. Cherry is still a bargain compared to historic prices, and supplies will tighten as rising U.S. housing activity generates additional demand for furniture and cabinetry.”

This last point is reflected in the prices quoted in U.S. trade journals which suggest (in October) that for Cherry lumber in certain grades and thicknesses there is little difference between White Oak and Black Cherry, although here a note of caution needs to be sounded. Oak and Cherry are two species that can vary in terms of characteristics and visual appearance, according to the soil conditions and particularly the growing region. For example, the Hardwood Market Report in Tennessee quoted on 2nd October 4/4 (1”) FAS grade Cherry from the Appalachian region at US$1,220 per MBF, whereas North Central prime growing area was US$1,365 for the same specification. For comparison Appalachian White Oak was quoted as US$1,340 – all ex-mill FOB. The price for 5/4 (1 ¼”) #1 Common furniture grade Cherry is even relatively cheaper than White oak. It should also be noted that Cherry is a single species whereas Oak has many sub-species. Cherry may exhibit gum pockets from some areas and White Oaks characteristics are quite variable.

In the first half of 2015, U.S. Cherry lumber exports worldwide were up 8% in value to US$47.8 million compared to the same period in 2014. Volume was up 12% to 60,725 cubic metres, suggesting weakening prices or lowering of grades exported. In China value was up 5% and volume up 8%. Vietnam increased by around 300% to US$4.2 million and 4,158 cubic metres. Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia all increased significantly in the same period, from a small base.

Here is what some of the Cherry exporters in the USA explain.

“Cherry has always been a sign of affluence and is a heritage species which must now be the most undervalued in the USA,” says Ted Rossi of Emporium Hardwoods in Pennsylvania.

Dean Alanko at Allegheny Wood Products in West Virginia comments “There’s only one American Black Cherry, and we are blessed to be located in area where we saw and dry it on a regular basis. With deep, warm and rich color, it is truly one of the best woods for a high-end furniture and millwork application when the desire is to show the true beauty of wood.”

“Cherry from our Appalachian area of East Tennessee is good value for the quality. For example, in a lot of the cherry there are minimum gum pockets,” said Adam Moran of Hermitage Hardwoods, speaking at the recent Vietnamwood show. The American Hardwood Export Council recently launched the latest advert in its ‘Designed in Asian and made in Asia with American hardwood” featuring a Cherry chair. It will act as a reminder of its natural reddish colour, which hopefully will be left to shine, now that the market obsession with dark stained furniture has eased.

More technical details on Cherry from