Southeast Business Trends

Dec Issue

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The sentiment of lumber providers in the Southeast regarding their markets is mainly that sales are in the positive realm but nothing to write home about. For example, an Alabama sawmill representative noted that his market is “pretty good. We cut Red and White Oak, Poplar and Ash and pretty much all species and all grades are moving well – except for Red Oak FAS; it’s at a standstill right now.” 

Compared to several months ago, the market is “absolutely better,” he stated. “The way the prices went up domestically helped.”

His best sellers, he pointed out, are White Oak, all grades; Poplar, all grades; and Red Oak, No. 1 Common. His lumber comes in 4/4, 5/4, and a little bit of 6/4.

His customers include both end users and distribution yards. “They have said their business is steady right now for the most part,” he noted. “We export very little right now. Our exports were 75 percent of our production a few years ago. Now, it’s maybe 10 percent. It’s not the supply chain problem; the markets overseas are just not as good as the domestic. You had Vietnam shut down for about a month. You couldn’t export any product into there. In China, the demand is not there really and the prices they offer are terrible.”

When asked about transportation, he stated it is “somewhat” of a problem. “Some of these companies we sell to are having a hard time getting trucks to our location. It’s an issue, for sure. It’s a major issue across this country.”

In Tennessee, a lumber provider remarked that his market is “decent – not great but decent. The good thing is, we’ve got logs. The bad thing is, there’s an overproduction of Poplar right now. We’re starting to see the prices drop on the No. 1 and No. 2 in Poplar a little bit. White Oak is still really good. The flooring market is good. For us, overall, things are in pretty good shape. We have logs to cut and lumber in stock. We’re in good shape in yard inventory.”

Compared to six months earlier, “It’s probably stationary,” he observed. “I’ve seen a little slowdown. But business is holding up for us OK right now.”

He sells Red and White Oak, Ash, Poplar, Hickory and Soft Maple. The best seller, he noted, is White Oak, then Poplar, then Red Oak. Thicknesses are mainly 4/4.

His sales are to distribution yards and end users. “The distribution yards are doing well,” he observed, “but they are screaming for plywood. End users are doing well,” he added.

Transportation is problematic, he stated, because of a shortage of truck drivers and containers. “Forty-foot containers are just about impossible to get, especially if you’re going to Seattle or Portland. I’ve got six loads right now waiting for containers. Still, business is good right now.”

In Virginia, a lumber provider remarked that her market is “good. White Oak keeps going up in price. Everything is moving; there’s nothing that’s not moving.” Her market, she stated, is better than a few months earlier.

She sells Red and White Oak, Poplar, Walnut and Ash in 4/4 through 8/4 thicknesses. White Oak, she stated, is the best seller. Her sales are to distribution yards and the export markets. Distribution yards declined in their own sales, then picked back up again, she observed. “The market is good for them now,” she observed.

Asked if transportation is a problem, she replied, “Of course. Isn’t it a problem for everybody? It’s harder to get containers. The date they are to leave the port keeps moving. However, I’m in pretty good shape regarding trucks. I work with a local trucker who hauls a lot of our product.” 

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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