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Datamyne Blog

Covering trade & transport, with tips on using import-export data to advantage

Bamboo Repurposed, Recoded

New uses for a renewable resource create new markets, but challenge HS codes

Bamboo has become the flooring of choice for those who aspire to a luxe decor that’s also eco-friendly. Made from a rapidly-renewable resource, bamboo floors can earn points under the United States Green Building Council’s LEED rating system.

Mao bamboo, a hardy variety native to China, is the type most used for flooring. Not surprisingly, trade statistics confirm that China is the primary source for bamboo flooring in the U.S.  But the trade data also make bamboo flooring look like an overnight success, with U.S. imports jumping from 0 in 2006 to $26 million (FOB $ value) in 2007. A second growth spike brings imports to nearly $67.6 million in 2008, and $68.8 million in 2009. 

But bamboo flooring wasn’t an overnight success … and these statistics should go into the record books with a big asterisk.

Bamboo flooring, introduced in the 1990s, was slow to catch on at first. But as early as 2003, China was exporting  an estimated  $58 million worth of bamboo parquet annually. The reason these exports don’t show up in the trade statistics is because they were lumped in with other wood flooring shipments under one all-purpose Harmonized System (HS) tariff code.

In 2003, the World Customs Organization took up a proposal by INBAR, the intergovernmental organization for bamboo and rattan producers, to create HS codes  that would identify new bamboo product and start to measure  trade that was already in excess of $100 million annually in some categories. In addition to bamboo parquet flooring, INBAR’s list included bamboo panels and boards, bamboo laser-copy and other papers, and edible bamboo shoots. 

It took four years to implement the new  HS codes. The 2007 spike in U.S. bamboo flooring imports, then,  reflects the first year codes were available to track trade in bamboo products  – including 4409.21 [for “Wood (including strips and friezes for parquet flooring, not assembled) continuously shaped …  of bamboo”].

The second spike in 2008, followed by positive growth in 2009 (at a time, recall, when building materials were trending downward) may also be partly the result of HS code changes. When the new flooring codes were adopted by the U.S. effective February 3, 2007, a mistake was made and the duty-free status of certain types of multilayered bamboo flooring was not carried over. An April 2, 2008 Presidential Proclamation  fixed that and created yet another code: 4418.72.91 [for unidirectional bamboo flooring].

So the HS coding has caught up with the growing trade in bamboo products … sort of. Note that bamboo textiles,  the height of eco-luxe fashion, are absent from INBAR’s 2003 list of new products. And, no, there aren’t yet HS codes that specify bamboo textiles. But there are Datamyne trade data specialists familiar with the Harmonized System and the country markets on both sides of the trade. They are only a phone call away for customers who need help on determining codes, interpreting results, resolving anomalies (such as the 2007 spike),  and deriving meaningful information from the statistics.

Datamyne also offers multiple databases for investigating new-to-market products, including China import-export, where you’ll find that China sends 41% of its bamboo flooring exports to the U.S.  While navigating HS codes  may require an assist from a Datamyne specialist, a search of U.S. import bills of lading for the commodity description “bamboo flooring” will return details of actual transactions and useful results such as the top  sources for bamboo flooring, starting with Zhejiang Tianzhen Bamboo & Wood. [Download our free report on bamboo flooring imports here.]

Date posted: October 26, 2010

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