London Hardwood Club – Market Meeting 3rd June 2020 14:00 BST (Zoom)
The meeting was opened by Rupert Walker who welcomed over 35 online members from across the UK as well as members and invited speakers from the USA, Italy, Belgium and other European countries. Rupert thanked David Howard for doing a fine job as President over recent years and for reviving the club and also thanked the committee members for preparing and arranging an online meeting and went on to explain the protocols for this zoom meeting.
1st speaker – Dennis Mann, Export Sales Manager – Baillee Lumber Company, NY, USA
North American Temperate Hardwoods (Sales Data slides/presentation available)
Dennis thanked Mike Snow from AHEC for the export sales data that he supplied showing export sales activity (US$ value) over recent years which peaked in 2017 and are trending down since that point. Sales to China (the largest single export market for North American Hardwoods) picked up considerably in February 2020 after the 12 month suspension of import duties of up to 25% in some species.
The UK remains a consistent market for US Hardwoods with the main volume being White Oak, followed by Tulipwood (Yellow Poplar) Black Walnut and then other species (Cherry, Maple, Ash).
Volumes to China were slow in 2018 due to the trade dispute between the two countries and that market is taking less low grade lumber than in past years. This is impacting sawmills in the USA who are struggling to find volume markets for the ‘centre of the log’ with weak domestic demand for industrial timbers (Pallet, Log Roads, Truck decks, Crane Mats, Railway Ties or sleepers, Saw chips, mulch etc) as a result of Covid 19.
Due to its low market price, #1 & 2 common grade Red Oak has taken market share away from White oak in the same grades into that market.
Domestic demand is weaker and production is slowing as mills find ways to operate with staff distancing protocols. Some sawmills have chosen to close and more will follow, some are ‘burning cash’ while they continue to operate but there is cash support with Government money (PPP - The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.) in the short term but there are concerns this won’t last much longer.
There are also concerns about the credit worthiness/cash positions of some businesses in the industry.
White Oak logs are in short supply and there are not huge volumes on stick or in the kilns so supply will remain tight especially in the thicker sections (6/4 and up) there will be shortages as we go into the summer months also wide and long prime grade/uppers in White Oak will be difficult to find.
Demand for Tulipwood has dropped back and the lower grades are difficult to find markets for both domestically and for export “its very tough to move common Poplar”
Premium/Superior Black Walnut is selling but the volumes are lower than it was in the past and it’s a small volume species. There are pockets of Ash trees that have not been affected by Emerald Ash Borer but in other areas trees have been infected and removed from the forests and public parks.
Other species such as Maple and Cherry are slow movers.
There was a Q&A session during which questions were put through the chairman about the market in Vietnam which have slowed down, also about FSC material from the USA (90/95% of FSC enquiries are from the UK alone) and about the effects of Ash Borer.
you can download his presentation at the foot of this page
2nd Speaker – Alex Boisson – Florian (Italy) - Export Sales – Market Sector European Temperate Hardwoods
Alex explained the history of Florian, a family company with annual sales of Euro 160m, production of 60,000m3 + of European White Oak, 30,000m3 Kiln capacity.
The UK is their largest market and takes in excess of 12,000m3 PA
He voiced his concerns on the availability of good quality White Oak logs going forward and how the size and quality has reduced over the past 10-15 years.
Prime Grade White Oak for the UK market will remain in tight supply over the summer but demand has also dropped back (seasonal). Wide and long specifications will be harder to find, and log prices are increasing and supply of good logs decreasing. This follows many weeks of no logging in Eastern and South Eastern Europe.
Export markets for the lower grades (Far East) are greatly reduced and with lower quality logs more lower grade is developing which is proving harder to sell.
Alex forecast stable demand for upper grade White oak in all main continental European markets until a ‘new normal’ is found.
He went on to discuss their development of engineered White Oak products which is now close to 20% of their business and the use of engineered White Oak in construction to utilise the lower grade.
There was a Q&A session via the Chairman which touched on export markets for low grade white Oak such – Alex described China as slow and Vietnam as Very slow, he also commented on the fact that the UK might be overstocked for the short term and commented that prices might spike during the summer due to log shortages.
3rd Speaker – Guy Goodwin – NHG (UK)
West African Tropical Hardwoods – Supply & Demand.
General numbers and statistics on cases and infection rates are unreliable in Africa. Some countries and regions within those areas affected in different ways. For example Ghana had a 3 week lock down where other areas continued with lower staff numbers.
West African sawmill production continues but has slowed down in line with market demands and shipments have reduced. Redwood prices are firm with exports to China still good. Sipo prices have softened a bit, good quality Kiln Dried Iroko is in tight supply and shipping dry Iroko is readily available which is reflected in the price. Ayous prices are firm and stable. EUTR certified material remains tight and round log prices in the same are firm.
There will be less volume available for forward shipments following reduced production but some deals to be had through exporter/traders looking to move cancelled orders/excess stock.
Certified lumber (including FSC) is in tight supply and will remain so as the demand exceeds the supply.
There was a Q&A session through the chair and the discussion moved towards tropical timbers in general.
Brazil has been in the spotlight over recent past in terms of Tropical species, West Africa has been less of a focus with better forest management programs in place.
Ken Walsh from Danzer UK spoke about the availability of FSC Sapele, Iroko and Framire all of which are in tight supply.
FLEGT in Africa (Ghana) was discussed “Not at the moment or in the near future” was the reply.
4th Speaker – Hank Marcel – Robinson Lumber – Market Sector South American Tropical Hardwoods.
Covid 19 has had little impact on production in South America. It’s the rain season and production has slowed down. Brazil is still producing but there are bigger issues with the currency (drop in value of the Brazilian real v the US$)
With the dry season approaching (July/August) production will increase and prices will fall, the market is slow.
The Chairman asked for additional contributions with regards to Tropical hardwoods;
GENEVIEVE STANDAERT – Vandecasteele - Balau prices are set to rise to rise in the short term due to reduced production in the far east as a result of firm rules on lock down.
Next meeting scheduled for 9th September
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