Lumber Prices Forcing Mills To Close

  • 3 min read

The tumultuous journey of lumber prices continues to be a topic of interest and concern for many in the construction industry. As we delve into the intricacies of the current market, it becomes apparent that a multifaceted interplay of factors is at play, leading to a scenario where some mills are implementing curtailments – a strategic move to either shut down or reduce supply.

The Dwindling Lumber Prices: A Complex Web

At the forefront of this discussion is the downward trend in lumber prices. The graph reveals a rollercoaster ride, with prices reaching unprecedented highs in 2021, followed by a sharp decline in 2022. As of now, lumber prices hover around $500 per thousand board feet, a figure that may not be economically viable for some mills to sustain production. The costs involved, encompassing production expenses, labor costs, payroll, and insurance rates, may surpass the returns, prompting mills to curtail their operations.

Curtailments in Production: A Strategic Move

Curtailments involve mills either shutting down temporarily or reducing their output to align with the current demand and pricing dynamics. This strategic decision aims to avoid operating at a loss and to navigate the challenges posed by high log costs and lower lumber prices. The ripple effect of these curtailments may not be immediately apparent in lumber yards, thanks to the existing supply chain, but shortages could become evident in the coming months.

Jumping Off the Fence: Buyers’ Response

The market response to these curtailments includes what industry insiders term as “jumping off the fence.” Buyers, anticipating potential shortages, are committing to lumber purchases now. This proactive approach involves securing lumber packages from yards and retailers, ensuring a steady inventory for upcoming projects. However, this surge in demand from buyers may act as a catalyst to boost lumber prices back up, creating a delicate balance between supply and demand.

Stabilizing Lumber Prices: A Future Outlook

While the current lumber prices reflect a temporary dip due to low demand, industry experts anticipate stabilization in the range of $600 to $700 per thousand board feet. As mills adjust their production volumes to meet demand more efficiently, the market is expected to find a balance that allows for both productivity and profitability. The challenge lies in overcoming the hurdles posed by high log costs and a volatile pricing landscape.

Traders’ Perspectives: Adapting to Changing Dynamics

Traders, crucial intermediaries in the lumber supply chain, are witnessing shifts in sawmill offerings. The end of October saw a reduction in sawmill offerings, prompting traders to act swiftly to secure deals and replenish depleted inventories. The demand for certain lumber categories, such as Western SPF studs, remains relatively strong, indicating pockets of resilience within the market.

The Contractor’s Dilemma: Adapting to Fluctuating Prices

For contractors, the evolving landscape of lumber prices presents a unique set of challenges. The dynamics of curtailments, fluctuating demand, and the reluctance of buyers to stockpile materials require contractors to adapt and strategize. Cash flow considerations, hesitation to buy ahead, and uncertainties in the market add layers of complexity to decision-making processes.

Share Your Insights: A Collective Conversation

As we navigate these fluctuations in the lumber market, we invite contractors and industry professionals to share their insights. How are lumber prices impacting your operations? Are you witnessing the effects of curtailments in your local lumber yards? Join the conversation and contribute to a collective understanding of the ever-changing dynamics in the construction industry.

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