Lake States Business Trends

Jan Issue

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Lumber movement in the Lake States region was described recently as favorable.

The co-owner of a Wisconsin sawmill characterized the market as fine. “I would say the market overall is good,” he reported. “Everything for the most part is selling and at pretty decent prices.”

The market was better six months ago, he commented. “Some of the cavities got filled up,” he quipped. “A lot has to do with exporting. Right now, I can export anything I want, probably, but the customers aren’t willing to pay the prices of what I want now, so I’m holding out.”

The Badger State operation manufactures Red and White Oak, Hard and Soft Maple, Basswood, as well as Ash and Cherry. Hard and Soft Maple sell best with Basswood also coming in well, he said. “Everything is moving really fast,” he described. “My Red Oak, the upper grades, is probably the slowest in sales. White Oak is much stronger.” The mill sells mostly 4/4 but also does some 5/4.

The operation’s distribution yard and end user customers tell him their sales are strong. “I could probably have more sales if they could find more labor,” he remarked. “Since the market’s been strong after COVID, once we got through that and the market got strong, labor has been a real issue for my customers. I know a lot of people in different businesses. I do not know where there is not a shortage of labor.”

Movement remained steady at an Indiana sawmill. “The market is probably a little slower than six months ago,” said the lumber source. The market was moving “pretty hot” at that point. The first couple months of this year were busy, and in November, the mill was still doing well with its orders,” he said.

“Log inventories seem to be lower than I would like them to be but K/D (kiln dried lumber) – wise, everything is moving steady as long as you can get trucks under it,” the contact commented.

Because it’s slow moving, Cherry has been “the dog,” while Walnut seems to be doing “pretty well” as well as White Oak. Poplar has had some pushback on price, but it’s still moving and going out the door strong, he said. “Hickory is strong, Red Oak is steady. Everything seems to be moving well.”

Most of the lumber we sell is to distributors and end user customers in 4/4 through 8/4.

In general, trucking remains tight. “Outside trucks are a little harder to come by these days,” he said. Transportation for exports is difficult.

Demand is positive for a Michigan sawmill. “Though a couple of items have slowed, for the most part, it’s okay,” said the sales executive. “We have a hard time keeping a lot of items in inventory, handing them off soon with quite a few different things. Shipments are close to our goals.”

Things have cooled since earlier in the year. “March through June was the narrowest, the busiest and the craziest I have ever seen,” he commented. “Things are not at that level, but they’re still good. We set some records at that point. Everything can still be good without reaching record-breaking levels.”

Hard and Soft Maple and White Oak sell the best for him while Hickory and Walnut are experiencing strong movement. The company also markets Red Oak and Cherry to a mix of distributors and end users, with business heavy to flooring, cabinets, millwork and furniture manufacturers. Thicknesses are 4/4, 5/4, 6/4, 8/4 with some 10/4 and 12/4.

Most customers report plenty of work though a labor shortage remains a common theme, he commented.

“Transportation is a little tough,” he observed. “Finding trucks is okay and rates are so-so. Wet conditions have made the logging part of it tough.”

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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