TIMBER MARKET WATCH
2013 was a pretty good year as far as timber prices were concerned. As the year progressed, hardwood sawlog prices increased in almost all markets. This was especially true for Northern red oak, sugar maple, and ash.
Our Maine foresters indicate that hardwood sawlog prices did increase in Maine towards the end of the year, but just as important they did not see any restrictions or quotas which allowed the movement of a significant amount of wood. White pine prices saw a minimal increase; however, word is that some of the Maine pine mills want to increase production in 2014 which should increase prices and/or limit the delivery restrictions. In 2013, pulp prices in Maine stayed pretty steady with very limited restrictions or quotas. Our foresters are a little concerned about the pulp markets remaining open without restrictions in 2014 due to some mill sales. This is something that they will be keeping their eyes on.
The New Hampshire foresters also saw an increase in hardwood sawlog prices with some grades of Northern red oak increasing 30% to 40%. White pine has remained steady; however, it does not appear to be the species of choice right now. Pulpwood markets were pretty stable or increasing for hardwoods, while the hemlock pulp market went down. Like other areas in New England, Vermont has seen an increase in hardwood sawlog prices. In southern Vermont, sugar maple sawlog prices increased three times within a two month period resulting in an average increase of around 30%. Hardwood veneer prices are still strong; however, no significant increase was seen in 2013. If anything some of the specifications may have been relaxed.
One of the largest increases seen in Vermont was in pallet log prices for Northern red oak and sugar maple seeing significant increases. White pine prices have stayed stable. In the fall, rumor was that many of the white pine mills were filling up and going to go on quota which probably steered operators to concentrate on hardwoods which in turn allowed pine prices to remain steady.
Based on historical records, our Manchester, Vermont center has calculated that the center is seeing the same prices that were seen around 2008. This may sound discouraging; however, the prices being seen today are some of the better prices we have seen in a few years.
NEFCo president Tony Lamberton states, “Things are looking better than they have for a while. I understand that landowners are looking for prices like those we saw during the housing boom, but I just don’t believe that is a reasonable expectation. That was a blip on the radar, and fun while it lasted, I don’t expect to see those types of prices again for a long time. It is a pretty good market right now. While we need to pay attention to the normal cycle of price changes due to species and time of year, for the most part, the market is pretty strong.”