Lake States Business Trends – November 2023

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Sources across the Lake States region accounted for marginally improved Hardwood activity. An Indiana wholesaler said his business has improved by about 10 to 15 percent overall. “Activity is average at best,” he explained. “Lumber availability has tightened up a bit, but that’s strictly due to supply.”

Handling 4/4 through 16/4, Poplar, Ash, Red and White Oak and Hard and Soft Maple, he said White Oak is moving the best. “You can move all the White Oak you can get your hands on right now, but you can’t get a hold of any.” As for his customers’ markets he said their business activity is the same as in previous months but many are starting to become concerned. “Some of our customers are starting to worry a bit about paying the bills. They don’t have many order files at this time.”

Elsewhere in Indiana a source had similar comments on availability issues. “The stave mills and the rift and quartered people are getting all of the White Oak,” he said. “The little guys can’t compete with that end of it. That’s just how the market is; it’s supply driven. It makes it difficult because you can’t play the game if you can’t get the product.”

When asked about the coming months the contact said, “That’s a tough question. With our government the way it is, it’s hard to forecast anything. There are so many factors and so many uncertainties, right now it’s anybody’s guess.”

“A lot of people still have timber standing and they’re afraid to cut it,” a contact in Michigan offered. “They’re going to have to cut it though because there are contracts underneath them. There’s a lot of factors going on in this current market,” the source said.

He continued, “Prices are down and it’s pretty rough for sawmills right now. Conditions are better but not enough to brag about.” The Hardwood supplier, who handles Red and White Oak, Hard/Soft Maple and Cherry, also said White Oak is the best moving item. “Availability of White Oak is scarce but that’s the one that sells the best.”

Marketing to mostly Hardwood end users he said his customers reported a decrease in sales activity. “We’re moving the green lumber but prices are really down. We need the prices to come up. We understand that business has to improve so that can happen.”

Overall most Hardwood suppliers in the region reported improved transportation conditions. “Transportation is the one area we can’t complain about,” he noted. “It would be good if demand from the Chinese market comes back. They were buying a lot of Red Oak and that is one area that we are hurting in now. There’s not enough domestic use in that species.”

Looking at the remainder of the year he said, “The holidays are always slow and we’ll see a slow down through the New Year. I think lumber will get less plentiful through the winter. Hopefully things will pick up at the beginning of the New Year.”

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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