Lake States Trends – December 2023

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Four lumber suppliers from the Lake States region recently agreed that market conditions have been “sluggish” overall in the last six months.

According to one Wisconsin based lumber provider at the time of this writing, “Everyone is just buying what they need and not buying anything ahead.

“It has been that way for the last 4-to-5 months,” he noted. “The buying part is the same as six months ago but the supply is not. No one is really caring about it as much because they don’t need much.

“No one knows what to do,” he continued. “So, everyone is sitting on their hands because they don’t want to get stuck with the wrong materials.”

His company, which deals with Poplar (typically 4/4, 5/4 and 6/4), Red Oak and Aspen (4/4 and Select Commons), and Soft and Hard Maples (4/4 and Upper Commons), primarily provides materials to moulding, cabinet and RV companies.

He added that recent mill closures have already begun to affect the industry.

“There are going to be some problems coming down the road up here in Wisconsin,” he said. “People have nowhere to take their pulp. They are not going to cut up lumber not knowing what they’re going to do with the majority of their pulp.”

A lumber representative in Indiana agreed that the “market is not as good as we wish.”

“It has been pretty quiet,” she said. “Transportation doesn’t seem to be a problem like it was in the past. I assume that all of the matters overseas have affected sales.”

Noting that her company handles Red and White Oak, Walnut, Hard and Soft Maple, Cherry and Poplar, she said that it specializes in 4/4 – 16/4.

A supplier in Ohio said that the market has been “up-and-down” recently.

Noting that domestic lumber sales have been stronger than the European market, he said that the industry is “a little on the downside.”

He added that transportation expenses have gotten “crazy.”

The supplier offers almost all domestic species and around 80 exotic species that are primarily sold to office furniture manufacturers, architectural, woodworking and plywood customers.

One Michigan mill representative said that the market for Red Oak and Maple has been “picking up a little bit.”

“Basswood and Aspen are in the tank now,” he added. “Those have been really slow on the grade side. I think a lot of it is just demand to be honest. There just isn’t enough out there.”

Noting that Red Oak is his best seller, he said that Maple has “picked up, surprisingly.”

Regarding the overall timber market, he said that “customers have seen the downtrend as well.”

“They’ve seen a little more competition out there,” he noted.

He agreed that higher fuel costs have been challenging for the industry.
“It seemed like they were ticking down in the summer,” he said. “But now they’ve bopped back up there. It doesn’t look like there is any end in sight.”

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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