Demand for Superior-grade alder will likely slide over the next three months as replacement orders stop from distribution yards in the West that have recently closed or consolidated operations. Alder mills won’t have much trouble moving the cabinet and lower grades, however, as domestic, Far Eastern and Mexican purchasing should be decent.
Exports have become a major driver of ash demand. Year-to-date ash export through April increased to 11 of the 13 largest markets, including a 19% gain in shipments to China, which takes half of all U.S. ash exports. Far Eastern and Middle Eastern markets should remain healthy; but European purchasing will slow for summer holidays.
Residential flooring plants will buy steady volumes of ash, and shipments to recreational vehicle manufacturers may inch up as they see slightly higher demand. With ash production gradually rising, the availability of all grades should improve.
With solid cherry use limited in the furniture, flooring and millwork sectors, and exports of the species quite low by historic standards, cherry producers now depend heavily on cabinet demand. A late 2011 survey by the National Kitchen and Bath Assn. found that 69% of kitchen designers had recently specified cherry cabinetry, down from 72% the year before and 80% two years prior.
We don’t think cherry is falling out of fashion; rather, some cost-conscious consumers and designers are temporarily steering away from what they perceive to be an ultra-expensive wood. Until consumers start spending more freely on new home upgrades and remodeling projects, cherry sales will remain challenging.
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