West Coast Trends – December 2023

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Hardwood lumber suppliers on the West Coast reported stable to busy activity. Niche markets accounted for increased business while other markets stayed the same as the previous report. Throughout the region, several contacts mentioned challenging transportation concerns and are expecting availability shortages in the near term.

One source in California said Hardwood activity is steady. “We’re seeing stable activity. I don’t know about our competitors but we haven’t seen much of a change. It’s been steady the last three months for us.”

Carrying high-end and wider width lumber, he said, “We set ourselves apart from the commodities. The hospitality markets are looking for specialty products and that’s what we carry.”

Carrying every species from Alder to Zebrawood, the source said the best moving item for his operation currently is Walnut and White Oak. “It doesn’t matter what cut, the Oak is moving,” he explained. “Rift cut, plain sliced, and quarter cut are all moving well in White Oak and Walnut. Probably our slowest species is Cherry right now.”

As for transportation, he said availability of trucks has improved but pricing continues to rise. “We have seen tremendous increases in fuel prices along with surcharges that just seem to continue to rise,” he said.

Looking ahead, the contact expects his market to remain the same but doesn’t think the same is true for commodity markets. “It’s a hard market if you’re not a specialty supplier right now. Due to prices of fuel rising and availability tightening, not everyone is willing to pay those increases.”

“Most of our customers are booked for the next few months,” a contact in Washington noted. One issue that challenges them, he added, is “freight costs are starting to go back up because of fuel cost.”

The Hardwood supplier, who handles mostly White Oak, said he expects lumber shortages in the coming months. “We’ll probably see some shortages in the whitewoods, such as the Maples and Walnut. Walnut may not be as bad but with White Oak we have all of the barrel companies that buy up products for their whiskey barrels. They are paying more of a premium than what people want to pay for a sawlog. They are willing to pay more to get the White Oak for the barrels. That’s why there’s a shortage right now and it will probably get tighter.”

Another contact in California said fuel costs are a major issue and trucking in general is challenging in his area. “Trucks aren’t allowed to come into certain parts of California,” he explained. “We have restricted freight coming in by truck and a lot of it is coming in by train and into the port. It’s still difficult to get it from the port.”

He continued, “The off-gassing of the diesel fuel and the fumes don’t meet the criteria set forth by legislation here. Until the trucking companies can get a handle on that end of it, our prices will be higher just to move it in.”

Overall many Hardwood suppliers in the area expect market activity to remain stable but look for price increases and availability shortages to continue.

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

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

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