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As we move into the mid-Summer months, the softwood timber trade globally becomes more interesting by the week, projecting possible shortages as we move into the 3rd/4th quarters of 2017.
Despite rising costs in the forward market for KD graded planed/regularised/treated carcassing – especially C24 structural grade – we still see a 'business as usual' attitude here in the UK, in that current trading prices from UK stock terminal operators are not reflecting the forward position regarding replacement cost levels.
Supplies from the Baltics, especially Latvia, remain reasonable. However, some log shortages have been reported due to supplies from Belorussia having dried up, in view of ongoing disputes with Putin. This is also on the back of rising prices due to these log shortages, in view of the strength of the Euro vs UK pound.
Housing starts in the USA reached 1.1 million in 2016, the projected starts for 2017 were estimated to be 100-150k more this year, overall demand could increase by 1.9-2.5 million m3.
With Mr Trump having highlighted import tariffs on Canadian forest products – in addition to steel and dairy goods – this market has become very attractive to the Scandinavians, especially as the USA consumes more than it can produce. This will only encourage a higher volume of carcassing from Sweden, subsequently resulting in greater shortages to other markets, particularly the UK.
Demand for the first half into American Eastern ports from Europe for carcassing products have improved substantially, with price increases of 10-15% reported, with one shipper reporting £27 per m3 more than UK prices – including freight costs to the USA – only 6 weeks ago.
With volume sales to China and Japan having increased by anything between 5-10% for Whitewood (Spruce) and Redwood (Pine), current projections show an additional 1.05 million m3 going to the Far East this year with increased prices between 3-6% over the existing 1st half period.
In Europe, sales of Spruce in Germany and Holland remain very strong with good prices being paid which have been edged up over the 1st half of 2017. Scandinavia also report excellent domestic sales over the same period, with some mills reporting the “best market conditions” they have seen with high sales and regular rising prices in SKr, leading to some reflecting they “cannot recall a time with all markets being so buoyant”.
Overall, sawmills for redwood and whitewood in Northern Scandinavia report all dimensions and qualities selling well, with no gluts in the pipeline and productions reducing rather than growing. This will no doubt result in greater shortages of material to other markets, such as the UK, moving into the 3rd/4th quarters of this year. With the Scandinavians now on their mid-summer break, this may lead to some gaps in specification as early as next month and September, whilst saw-mill production is being planned for the final 3 months of 2017. We therefore must watch this space.
Stamco Timber remain well stocked at present and are currently concluding their final quarter purchases, as we write this report. Whitewood prices have already substantially moved up over the 1st half of this year and we eagerly await conclusion of prices to end of 2017 on spruce/pine moving forward. We will update you on market conditions again next month.