Northeast Business Trends – September 2022

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Transportation challenges were reported across the board for sawmills in the Northeast region of the country. Slower buying for Hardwoods was also a common theme.

A Maine Hardwood lumber salesman said Hard Maple currently remains his big seller in his market.

“Maples are slowing down,” he said. “We sell Hard and Soft Maple. Hard Maple is doing OK, but both have slowed down. Birch is still desired in our market also.”

He said the market is worse than six months ago with buyers operating with full inventories.

The species he handles includes Hard and Soft Maple, Yellow Birch, White Ash and “a little bit of Red Oak. We cut 4/4 and 5/4 thicknesses. Hard Maple is selling best right now.”

Hard Maple is his strongest seller currently for end users and exporters. “Soft Maple is slowing down,” he added.

He says current market challenges include increased fuel and energy costs and the fight not to pass the increased costs on to clients.

One sawmill representative in Maryland said the market is fair right now, for better or for worse.

“There is a slowdown on domestic Hardwoods,” he said. “The market is worse than six months ago.”

He handles all Appalachian Hardwood species including Red and White Oak, Cherry, Hard and Soft Maple, Yellow Poplar, Basswood, Ash, Hickory, Beech, Birch, Walnut, Locust, as well as white pine and eastern hemlock in softwoods.

Hardwood species grades sold are No. 2 Common or Better for appearance products, primarily in 4/4 thickness.

“Distributors are our number one customer,” he added. “We also sell to flooring, cabinet, and stair part manufacturers.”

Overall, reliable means of transport remain a struggle for his company.

“It’s hard to find a truck right now, any way you look at it,” he remarked.

Another Hardwood lumber salesman in West Virginia claimed prices are “backing up” Hardwood purchasing in the market.

“The market has tightened up and it’s worse, but mostly for Oak and Soft Maple,” he explained. “It’s down for those, but I’d say it’s worse than three months ago.”

In his region, Hard Maple is a current best seller. His Hardwood sawmill cuts “predominately 4/4 and sells to end users and distributors.”

He also cited acquiring sufficient transportation means as a current challenge.

“The fuel surcharges are being absorbed by companies like us. Which is something we have done before in the past, but now it is just constant. Still, that’s even if you can find enough drivers. Of course, nobody is building new kitchen cabinets with the gas prices so high right now.”

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By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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