Lake States Business Trends – July/August 2022

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In the Lake States region, lumber providers have found lately that lumber is moving – in some cases extremely well, in other cases “not crazy good” but still well. A Wisconsin sawmill representative said the market is “very good. Just about everything’s moving well. Red Oak is going well, as are White Oak, Basswood, Aspen and Hickory. Cherry is probably my toughest one, but I’m not saying it’s not moving. The export market seems strong in Ash and Red Oak.”

Asked if the market was better or worse than several months ago, he replied, “I guess I’d say it’s about the same. It’s been strong all the way.”

In addition to the previously mentioned species, he also sells Hard and Soft Maple and Ash. Most of his lumber is 4/4 thickness, but some is 5/4. Grades of lumber are No. 3 and Better. He sells mainly to end users but also to distribution yards. His customers are prospering. “Right now,” he said, “they’re busting at the seams with orders.” Most of his customers manufacture flooring, cabinets, doors and trim.

“Domestically, transportation is not a problem,” he stated. As for export, “We’re waiting for containers,” he noted. The degree of difficulty “depends on whom I’m dealing with,” he commented. “Some people can get containers in here easily, and some have problems.”

Another sawmill source, this one in Indiana, said the market is “pretty good. Everything’s doing pretty well. All the species are moving. Prices are still doing pretty well. They’re steady or we’ve increased some recently.”

Compared to a few months earlier, he judged that the market is “even to better. Everything is still positive.” The lumber he handles is No. 2 Common and Better “on pretty much everything,” he remarked, adding that some lumber comes rustic. Species include Walnut, Red and White Oak, Hard and Soft Maple, Cherry, Hickory, Poplar and Ash. Thicknesses range from 4/4 to 8/4, and sometimes thicker.

He offers lumber to distribution yards and end users – “probably more distribution yards than end users. It seems like sales are pretty solid for our customers. We’ve heard reports that, even with interest rates increasing, sales are still there. Everyone’s still pretty busy.”

Regarding transportation, he said that, domestically, “everything seems to be doing well.” However, exports are down. “We can’t get containers in here to fill,” he observed.

In Michigan, yet another sawmill representative reported that his market is “strong. There’s good demand on about everything we’re producing. It’s not crazy-good but it’s still good, strong demand.”

He said the market is “maybe slightly better” than it was six months ago. “It’s been pretty good for awhile,” he stated. “Whether it’s better or worse is probably pretty minimal.”

He handles Hard and Soft Maple, Red and White Oak, Hickory, Walnut, Cherry and Poplar in 4/4 through 10/4 thicknesses and in grades of No. 3 and Better.

His customers are divided evenly between distribution yards and end users. “Most of my customers say they’re pretty busy,” he stated. “Some have slowed down a little bit. However, it doesn’t affect demand too much. For awhile, demand exceeded what we were producing. With some customers slowing down, there’s still enough places to go to sell. It hasn’t hurt sales a whole lot.”

At the time he was interviewed log weight restrictions were coming to an end. “Up here, when winter ends, they restrict how heavy of loads that you can haul on the roads because of soft snow on the ground,” he observed. He added that transportation availability is fine. “Pricing and rates have been tough,” he noted.

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By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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