Updates on Sawmill Plans and Expansions

ArborGen recently had an opportunity to speak to Jonathan Smith, executive director of Timber-Mart South, a publication for the forestry industry that assesses market prices in the U.S. South, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. We asked Jonathan to give us an update on new sawmill plans and expansions.

Jonathan stated there have been many startup announcements since 2017, and the current number of new sawmills planned stands at nine with 25 expansions or upgrades as well. “If all of that happens, we are projecting a 25% softwood lumber capacity increase in the South by 2021, which is about 4.7 billion board feet. For the most part expansion and upgrades are occurring in all the states Timber-Mart South covers except Virginia and Tennessee”, says Jonathan. However, of those new sawmills, Canfor has postponed one with no new startup date announced. Also, due to current weak markets, at least four sawmills have announced some curtailments.

 

He pointed out that pine sawtimber prices have been pretty flat over the last five years while hardwood sawtimber has been on the rise. Hardwood sawtimber prices surpassed in pine prices in 2013. Although there have been a few quarters with a little pull back on hardwood prices, hardwood is continuing to lead pine.

Future prices will depend on the drivers. Regarding housing starts, a major driver for pine sawtimber, forest industry analysts widely believe we need at or above 1.5 million starts per year to encourage growth and competition. Jonathan says, “Until we reach and maintain that point, I feel like we will be in this lull of ebb and flow driven by weather and short-term production demands.”

Our thanks to Jonathan Smith for his time and sharing his expertise. To read more or subscribe to Timber-Mart South, click here to get more information.

 

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