Northeast Business Trends – April 2022

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Hardwood lumber representatives in the Northeast report that the market is doing well, although supply chain issues are still front and center for most.

“The supply chain cycle is upside down right now,” stated the president and director of sales of one Pennsylvania lumber yard that sells to end use manufacturers.  “I think we’ve got over 40 containers just waiting to be exported overseas. From what I’ve been told, it would work itself out in the end of the second quarter or third quarter but I’m talking to people now who have figured out it will be until 2023 sometime. We’re only in the beginning of 2022.”

He also noted that there is an unsatisfied demand currently due to lack of supply and difficulty bringing in any goods from overseas. “Our clients are using a lot of domestic lumber” he said, “when they’re needing component parts and extra items, they can’t get it from overseas, so they’re having to buy more domestic wood products rather than buying foreign woods.”

Specifically, his company carries Cherry, Red and White Oak, Hard and Soft Maple, Hickory, Yellow Birch, Beech, Ash, Poplar, Red Elm and Walnut in thicknesses ranging from 3/4 to 10/4, Framestock through FAS grades.

One purchasing executive for a New York distribution yard specializing in exports of Red Oak summarized the situation like this: “Logs are plentiful, lumber is plentiful, trucking is short and containers are a mess. Everybody’s in the same boat.”

Another source in Northeast Hardwood sales for Pennsylvania reiterated, “Trucking is a bear, the prices are higher to get things moved. It’s a big factor.”

Despite pervasive challenges with labor shortages and transportation for the lumber industry and supply chain, particularly relating to exports, sources are optimistic about the market leveling off and continuing to stabilize itself. Hardwood is still in high demand, even as prices have increased, and customers are still ordering despite backstock issues delaying the process.

Sources agree that the market is similar to what it was six months ago, although it seems to be on a path toward correcting itself. “The market ran in spurts six months ago and seemed hotter and more rapid, but now it has calmed down I think,” noted one Pennsylvania sales manager. “What we experienced back then seems like it has become more steady right now.” Her company sells Red and White Oak in 5/4 and 4/4 thicknesses, as well as Basswood, Poplar, Birch, Ash, Walnut, Hickory, Hard Maple and Soft Maple in 4/4 thicknesses.

As for which species are selling best, one source stated, “The Maples have been doing very well.  Poplar continues to do well, too. Hickory has been doing good. We’ve seen some more interest in Cherry here lately, which is encouraging. Red Oak is just a staple item but I think there’s a lot of potential for Red Oak and Cherry, as well.”

Pricing continues to show fluctuation as the market is adjusting to economic instability due to various issues such as supply chain disruptions. “Prices have been up but there is pressure on Red Oak right now,” noted a sales representative for a Pennsylvania sawmill in which 60 percent of their production is White Oak and Red Oak. “White Oak is moving well and there’s some pressure on Poplar but it’s still moving well.”

Another sales representative for a Massachusetts lumber distributer noted that they are also looking for pricing to level off and become more stable. “It’s very up and down right now,” he stated. While the company carries Walnut (Superior FAS) and Red Oak (FAS), he echoed other sources stating that White Oak is still their top seller. There is also an uptick in sales of Cherries, according to multiple Hardwood sales and purchasing representatives interviewed. Poplar and Maple are also doing well.

As for market fluctuations and challenges for Hardwood end-users, sources note that the companies they sell to are doing well and learning to adjust to changes that are occurring. “I think we’re going to continue to see a lot of things that aren’t going to make sense for a while and that’s the normal,” one source said. “There’s just so many inconsistencies right now and everyone is just trying to do what they can do to make things happen.”  

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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