Midwest Business Trends – September/October 2022

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In the Midwest region, strength remains in the Softwood lumber business, but there is some slowing down.

A sawmill spokesman from Texas stated, “Our market has still been pretty active, pretty strong. All our production is moving at current, competitive pricing.”

Relative to a few months earlier, he remarked, “I would say it’s flat. It’s historically the same. It’s a positive environment for us. All we produce is boards. We’re the second largest board mill in the South. We’re still moving all our fiber.”

He sells Southern Yellow Pine boards in No. 2 and No. 3 Common and D and Better. “Twenty five percent of our production goes to 17 different patterns. It’s all 1-inch thickness,” he noted.

Eighty percent of his sales are to wholesalers, he noted. “I think their sales to their customers are still good,” he remarked. “For boards, if you call other board mills, you should hear similar stories.

“I hear from my customers that finding truckers is difficult,” he said. “There are fewer truckers on the road. But it’s not affecting our business. Our customers pick up their loads from us within two to three weeks.”

Another Texas lumberman stated, “We’re fairly strong right now in our sales. We’re on the custom side so we’re not being hit by any of the track homes slowing down. Our board footage on order has been steady for the past year.” Therefore, he said, the market is the same as it’s been for several months.

He sells No. 1 and Better Green Doug Fir; No. 1 and Better kiln-dried Doug Fir and Appearance Grade Western Red Cedar. “Anything over 24 feet has been difficult to get,” he noted.

He sells to retail lumberyards. “In Texas,” he said, “they recently had a seasonal slowdown, but there has been a positive outlook for the future. They don’t see the market slowing down a whole lot. Track home building is affecting some of the yards but the custom side seems to be steady.

“Like anyone in the industry, transportation costs have gone up as fuel costs have increased,” he commented. “But we’ve been able to manage, pricing accordingly to make sure we’re covering our costs.”

In Kansas City, a lumber supplier said there has been “a bit of a slowdown due to the interest rate increases. The frantic pace seems to be subsided for now at least. Lumber sales are steady, but I’d say it is off a bit from a few months ago in demand.”

He offers No. 2 SPF in 2×4 and 2×6, No. 2 Green Doug Fir in 2×6 to 2×12, and kiln-dried Doug Fir in 2×6 to 2×12. His best seller is Green Doug Fir.

He sells his lumber to pro dealer yards and box stores. “Everyone’s business is still really good,” he observed. “The insanity we went through in the COVID years has subsided, but it’s still steady.

“There’s still difficulty finding flatbeds across the country,” he remarked. “Trucking is still tight; it’s hard to get drivers in those trucks. Rail traffic has improved a little bit.”

A South Dakota lumberman said his sales are “steady; people are buying as they have need.” The market is actually better than it was six months earlier, he noted.

He offers Cedar in knotty, SPF in No. 2 Common and Premium and White Fir in Select struct. His best seller is Premium SPF in 2×4. Distribution yards are his customers, he stated and “most are staying busy.

“Getting railcars is problematic,” he said. “Trucks are getting expensive but they’re available.”

By Paul Miller

Paul Miller President Miller Wood Trade Publications

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