KETCHIKAN - China will open a new plant to fumigate logs, eliminating a barrier to Alaska exports, Gov. Frank Murkowski's office said.
The facility in the Fujian Province is expected to be in business by June.
The development came after several years of negotiations between China and U.S. officials. China is a key market for Alaska log exports, Murkowski said.
"The (state) Division of Agriculture and the timber industry spearheaded this effort and successfully kept the pressure on both sides," he said.
The state estimates log exports to China totaled $2.9 million in 2004, up from $2.5 million in 2003. China is the state's fourth largest export market.
Sealaska Corp. has signed a letter of intent to lease log storage at the new processing facility, according to the governor's office. Ross Stevens, senior vice president of marketing for Sealaska Timber Corp., said he wouldn't be surprised to see his company's exports to China more than double this year.
"It is a good thing and certainly is going to make the China market accessible, or at least this one region of it, for Alaska exporters," he said.
China started to require that logs from the United States be fumigated in 2001 as part of broader trade discussions, according to Patricia Eckert, a trade specialist with the governor's office of international trade.
"There had been an earlier situation where the U.S. said wood packing materials that came into the U.S. needed treatment," she said. "So China then indicated they needed fumigation of logs going into China."
After the requirement went into effect, the Alaska Division of Trade and its international trade office worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set up third-country fumigation, Eckert said.
"It's a relief to see third-country fumigation. It's also a bigger relief to see fumigation on entry into China," she said. "I'm really delighted about this."
Sealaska had been fumigating logs on a vessel in Japan, then sending them to China, Stevens said.