Business for hardwood lumber companies continues to show improvement. Sales were good in January and the first three weeks of February. Selling lumber and making money, however, remain two distinctly different propositions. One producer noted, “We are working smarter for a thinner margin.”
Sawmills reported fair to good log supply in the northern areas due to the recent cold weather. Mills in the South and Midwest, however, were generally low on logs due to the wet conditions and/or lack of loggers.
Wholesalers had more difficulty finding kiln-dried lumber to sell, while concentration yards reported difficulties getting the green lumber they needed. Because of tight green lumber availability, some concentration yards were running their kilns at only 65-70% of capacity. Distribution yards had better business, with higher demand noted from architectural millwork and commercial fixture manufacturers. Though flooring prices continued to firm and retail sales improved, many flooring manufacturers were unable to buy and dry enough lumber to increase production. Cabinet producers used more soft maple, but found it increasingly difficult to procure enough green lumber.
The Chinese New Year continues to dampen export orders, but shippers are optimistic about the next few months. Importers of hardwood lumber said business was fair, but some had very low inventory levels and were facing shipment delays.
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