Andrew Copley, senior analyst with Forisk Consulting, spoke on North American Timberland and Forest Industry Capital Investment Trends during the recent Wood Bioenergy Conference & Expo in Atlanta. He noted that Weyerhaeuser’s REIT, with 11,735,000 million acres, is far and away the largest owner of timberland; it is larger than the four largest U.S. TIMOs combined. He said in 2019 about 1.6 million acres changed hands.
Focusing on southern pine timberlands, Copley said that in the 1980s the average southern yellow pine plantation accumulated 2.4 tons of volume per acre per year, and by 2016 that number had more than doubled to five tons per acre per year. “As a whole, we are growing much more wood on an acre of land today than we were 30 years ago,” he said. “There is still room for improvement; a well-managed SYP plantation can produce six to eight tons per acre per year.”
Abundant grade supply is one of the factors that has led to a massive influx of sawmill investment in the South. In 2019 Copley said firms in the South completed 10 sawmill expansions and five new sawmills began operations. This added 1.7 billion BF of capacity to the regions. Firms expect to build or expand 21 mills in the South in the next two years. Southern softwood sawmill capacity should approach 23 billion BF by 2024, a gain of 17% in five years.
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