North American hardwood sawmills reported slow sales during the first half of March. “Normally we see business improve from the second week of January through May,” said one contact. “This year, we are quoting and not selling.”
One buyer for a large flooring manufacturer said, “The supply base is producing lumber at a rate we simply cannot absorb.” Concentration yards have large inventories, and some have cut their March purchase volumes by 50% or more. FAS/1F lumber moved much better than the common grades in several species, most notably Red Oak, White Oak and Hard Maple.
Hardwood sawmills often struggle with log supplies in late winter due to wet weather and melting snow, but with spring about to arrive, most now have adequate to abundant inventories.
Many mills are unhappy with the mix of species in their log yards, however, and would prefer to have less Red Oak and Hard Maple, and more Ash, Aspen and Cypress.
Mills are trying to push down log prices, but with several log species being exported in higher volumes, and demand for White Oak and Poplar logs strong from barrel stave and veneer plants, respectively, results have been mixed.