Timber Markets Turned Up

Beware if a buyer tells you the markets are still depressed.

Published on: Jun 3, 2010

Timber prices are clearly on the upswing, and have been through first-quarter 2010. That's the good word from Northeast timber market analysts and even buyers.

"But 24 months ago, fire wood values exceeded the log values of  stumpage rates between $100 to $150," recalls Andy Metz, forester for Cortland Forestry at Tully, N.Y. Black cherry led the recovery, with veneer in high demand and reduced logging activity. Hard maple demand, he adds is for clear, white wood for veneer markets.

Demand for ash has been moderate, he adds, due to Emerald ash borer quarantines. In regions where EAB threatens, he suggests that owners consider a pre-emptive ash (salvage) harvest.

Pennsylvania's saw timber stumpage prices have generally been trending higher since second-quarter 2009, reports Mike Jacobson, Penn State Extension forester. Jacobsen gathers quarterly data from surveys of foresters, saw mills and pubic agencies. But each of the state's four regions have markedly different markets – and prices.

First-quarter stumpage prices for top-selling black cherry, for instance, averaged $1,204 in the Northeast, up 40% from fourth-quarter; $702 in the Northwest, down 6%; $750 in the Southeast, unchanged; and $395 in the Southwest, up 15%. Quality and quantities available also vary considerably.

Hard maple, another premium-value wood was also inconsistently higher. First-quarter prices averaged $402 in the Northeast, up 56%; $260 in the Northwest, down 5%; $366 in the Southeast, down 22%; and $276 in the Southwest, up 15%.

For all the latest numbers, check out the Pennsylvania Timber Market Report, click on http://extension.psu.edu/tmr/

Pulp and export demand strong

High demand and low supplies in pulp markets for wood fiber also boosted first-quarter prices for all but the U.S. Northwest, according to the North American Wood Fiber Review. Pulp mills in the Lakes States and South have been running close to full capacity through the first months of the year to take advantage of record-high prices.

In the Lake States, first-quarter softwood prices moved up, even with stable supplies. Softwood fiber prices currently are the highest in the country.

Pennsylvania, which leads the nation in hardwood lumber production, is coming off a strong export year. Wilfred Muskens, who oversees international business development for the Department of Community and Economic Development, reports 2009 export sales of $455 million – "25% higher than the previous year." That's a solid sign that major players in the global economy may be rebounding, he notes.