Hard maple supplies stayed under control through the peak winter cut, even with Canadian hardwood lumber production 29 percent higher during Q1 2012 than during the same period in 2011, according to Statistics Canada.
Apparently, markets were prepared to absorb more hard maple than we originally thought. Gradual growth in cabinet manufacturing activity and steady shipments to flooring plants will keep all grades of 4/4 hard maple moving at a decent pace over the next three months, though we still expect prices to soften during that time. Supplies of some thick stock hard maple items have already surpassed demand, making them susceptible to larger price declines.
Soft maple sales have remained strong even as prices edged closer and closer to equivalent hard maple items. Demand from cabinet, furniture and moulding producers, as well as distribution yards, will hold steady over the next few months. However, buyers that have thus far shown only minor resistance to rising soft maple prices will begin to push back, causing prices to level off.
If poplar supply and demand trends were following past norms, producers would have already flooded strong markets and prices would be retreating. As we are all learning, however, “normal” isn’t what it used to be. During the current poplar upturn, mills haven’t been able to ramp up production as quickly, and demand continues to grow despite price increases.
Looking ahead, poplar shipments will remain brisk to domestic distributors, moulding manufacturers and furniture plants. Poplar exports—which set monthly records in March and again in April despite a 57 percent year-on-year drop in Italian purchasing—will also stay strong. Though poplar supply is catching up with demand and prices are leveling off, summer price declines will be relatively small, if they occur at all.
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