Northeast Business Trends

Jan Issue

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The Hardwood lumber markets in the Northeast remain strong, according to sources contacted.

In recent weeks, the lumber market was trending well, said the president and sales manager of a Pennsylvania firm. “The market has been moving fairly quickly,” he said. “Just when you think things may be slowing down a tad bit, they creep back up again and people focus on the items they need very quickly.”

Production numbers are still not where they have been and may never return to historical numbers, he commented. “For the year that started September 2020 for the cycle now, what we’ve been going through is not normal. Prices just shot up. Hardwood prices have been on or near recessionary pricing. Prices have gotten to where they should be in order for operations to remain profitable. Many companies would not be in business today if we didn’t see where prices are at now.”

He said he foresees a lot of good business to carry on at least through the third or fourth quarter of 2022. Hard and Soft Maple and Poplar are selling well with Hickory decent. “Red Oak and Cherry are definitely undervalued now,” he said. “Those items have the most potential to rise in price once buyers take a look and think they might be a nice option to use.”

The company also sells White Oak and Ash to distributors and millwork, furniture and cabinet makers. 

Because of a wet fall and a low area log supply, raw material availability has been very tight, he said. The cost of import containers remains expensive. To fill just-in-time inventories, he believes buyers who were using some imported woods may consider turning more to domestic species because of availability and high freight costs. 

Business has returned to normal for the owner of a New York sawmill. “It’s not hotter than a pistol, but not slower than slow,” he remarked. “I would describe the market as medium. It’s not hot and not cold. It has slowed a tad from where it was a month ago.”

The market is worse than six months ago, he reported. Production has started to catch up with demand, only because he believes demand isn’t as robust as before, he added.

The company mills Red and White Oak and Hard Maple for end users and distributors with Maple selling best. The company sells 4/4-8/4.

Overall, transportation isn’t causing problems, except for container availability. 

The lumber market remains favorable at a Pennsylvania sawmill and kiln-dried lumber operation. 

“I would say the market is very strong in our area,” said the vice president. “We are not having any difficulty moving any of the species,” he reported. “Demand seems to be the highest for Soft Maple. We are getting more inquiries than anything else but have no difficulty moving any of the species or grades.”

The area’s large cabinet component companies and cabinet shops possess an appetite for Hard and Soft Maple. Some moulding and millwork companies remain strong, as well, but not as strong as what the company is witnessing in the kitchen and bathroom industries. The company also sells Red Oak, Cherry and Ash to kitchen and bath industry end users. 

Sales are better than six months ago and are going well for low grade, No. 2 and 3A Common, he said. He utilizes all of the grades from FAS to No. 1 Common and No. 3 Common. The company mostly sells 4/4. 

While his customers’ orders remain strong, getting product through their facilities, for all the reasons one reads about daily, is problematic. “Due to lack of labor, whether people are calling in sick due to COVID or quarantining, or the fact that they can’t get enough help, it’s rampant for everyone,” he observed. 

For exports, ports remain a mess. Shipping lines shift dates at-will forcing truckers to juggle around their schedules. “We can’t plan anymore,” he worried. “We can’t plan and ship it on the original booking time frame. 100 percent of the bookings we get, the dates change. That would be true for anyone who exports.”

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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