Lake States Business Trends

Dec Issue

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Sources in the Lakes States region continue to report stable business despite challenges with supply. 

“The Hardwood market is very strong,” said a source in Wisconsin. “Prices have been on the rise, other than with Red Oak.” 

Some especially hot species for this contact include the Maples, Basswood, and Aspen, according to him. “I know our mills have been doing pretty good, but some of the smaller ‘maw-paw’ mills around here are lacking on logs.” 

Compared to a few months ago, this source has seen increased demand, especially in white lumber species. “It’s been a very good year,” he said. “Prices have been high and the market has been strong all year. We are close to record years, but it would be even better if we could hire some help.” 

This lumber buyer explained that the primary challenges he is experiencing come down to COVID issues and workforce shortage. “They are a continuing ongoing problem,” he said.

His company handles Select and Better Maples, Aspen, White and Black Ash, Basswood, Red Oak, a little bit of Cherry and similarly, Birches in 4/4. Most of his customers are end users, but the company sells to some distributors as well. 

“They are doing very good, for the most part,” he said. “A lot of them need more lumber. We have a customer base that we supply on a regular basis, but right now we can’t produce enough lumber. Like I said, the lumber we can sell are at good prices, we just can’t produce as much.”

When asked about transportation, the source responded, “Domestic and export containers are extremely hard to come by. We’re in Northern Wisconsin, and our domestic container rates going out to California just got raised $700 just last week, and that is if you can even get containers. There are embargoes on some of the railcar companies out there. Export containers are nearly impossible to get right now just because all the ports are congested, and that is related to a lack of workers at the ports and also truck drivers.”

A source in Michigan reported that his business has been “busier than heck all summer long,” with the domestic Hardwood market doing “very well” in his area.

“We normally have 6-700,000 feet of inventory and I have about 50,000 right now, so supply is way down and demand is still up,” he said. 

This contact described business as similar to a few months ago. His company handles high-grade Red Oak, Hard and Soft Maple, Aspen, Basswood, Ash and Cherry predominantly in 4/4 but also offers 5/4 and 6/4 thicknesses. 

The source said that his business sells to concentration yards and flooring manufacturers. “Of course, that’s been a good market this year,” he said. He added that the demand for common material, especially Red Oak, “has just been crazy. The flooring guys are just fighting over it now, still.”

Transportation issues have loosened for this source, according to him. His company has a truck that is used for local sales and sources other operations for out-of-state shipments. “It hasn’t been easy most of the year, but it’s been a little better lately,” he said. 

In Indiana, a source reported that the current market in his area is “still strong.”

“There are a lot of people looking for what little lumber is produced in the area now that so many mills have shut down,” he said.

He described supply as “tough” due to high competition. “The prices stay high, so the market is definitely supply-driven,” he said.

When asked to compare business to two to three months ago, the contact responded, “It’s definitely slowed down, especially the Red Oak. Red Oak is the main one, but everything else is still going along fairly steady with a little bit of resistance in price, but you can still move it.”

His company handles all major domestic Hardwood species No. 2 Common and Better, including Ash, Red and White Oak and Walnut, offered in 4/4 up to 8/4 with some available in 10/4 and 12/4. 

His company sells its products to retail stores and end users who are reportedly stressed about increased costs. “They can’t absorb any more prices,” he said.

This source described transportation as “hit and miss at best.” 

“A lot of our containers go to California and sometimes we’re waiting two weeks to get one in,” he said. “And with the ships that are operational out there, it’s getting worse because they’re not unloading any of the containers in a timely manner to come back into the circuit to reload.”

Another lumber buyer in Indiana reported that he was “pleased” with the current market, and that “orders still seem to be good” for his company. He described supply and demand as “balanced.”

“There are some items that seem to have reached their peak and customers are not as hungry for them, I guess,” he said. “You know, we were selling lumber right out of the kiln; and now, we might put it on the shelf for a little bit.”

His company handles a variety of domestic Hardwood species, with the hottest species being Ash, Red and White Oak and Hickory, offered in thicknesses from 4/4 up to 8/4 in No. 2 Common and Better.

This contact sells predominantly to end use manufacturers who are reporting good business, according to him. “They feel like their orders are going to hold through the first quarter of next year,” he said.

When asked about transportation, he described it as “getting better.” 

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

The premier online information source for the forest products industry since 1927.

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