Latest 2018 data shows varied Wisconsin timber pricing trends, amidst global challenges

Pulpwood prices continue to drop, furthering a 3-year trend

"Red Pine" by Bob Klannukarn is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

MADISON -- Sawlog pricing in Wisconsin varied by species in late 2018 with nine species increasing and eight decreasing from the prior year, according to public and private transactions tracked by Forest Data Network. The changes were despite declining lumber prices nationally during the last half of the year.

These trends were apparent in index prices reported and compiled in the first quarter of 2019 from harvest activity late in 2018.

Strong headwinds in the national and world economies buffeted log and lumber prices around the world, affecting wood pricing in Wisconsin. For instance, Canadian softwood lumber imports to the U.S. dropped by 5 percent in the last half of 2018 amidst trade tensions, which should have increased U.S. demand. But U.S. lumber prices actually dropped by about 20 percent as interest rates increased last year and home building lagged late in the year (housing trends appeared ready to improve early in 2019 as interest rates decreased).

The relative calm in sawlog pricing in Wisconsin seemed fairly benign in contrast to national trends. Most species were close to flat, according to the statewide indices. The most volatile sawlog species were ones with modest volume: cedar up 25 percent statewide, and hemlock declining by 17 percent.


Statewide Mixed Hardwood Stumpage (MBF) trends (Copyright: Forest Data Network)

However, there were wide swings between state regions in sawlog pricing. For instance, cedar more than doubled from the prior year in one Central Wisconsin region (the Wisconsin River region).

More information can be found in regional or statewide reports available here.

At the same time pulpwood prices declined pretty much across the board, continuing a trend of the last three years.

Prices for 12 species of pulpwood declined in Wisconsin in late 2018. Only three increased. This trend showed less variation regionally than sawlog pricing did. Regions in Northern, Central and Southern Wisconsin all showed consistent declines in pulpwood pricing across species.

In most species, the decline in pulp prices was nearly universal around the state, but there were broad variations in sawlog prices within the same species with significant price jumps.

For instance, aspen sawlogs jumped by 12 percent in the Northwest Wisconsin region to an average of $98.80/mbf (mbf: one thousand board feet, a measurement common the timber industry) while falling by 31.5 percent in the Driftless North region in the Southwest part of the state to an average of $78.20/mbf.

So there was strong regional variability amidst calmer statewide trends.

If you’d like to see more pricing information about your area of the state, based on thousands of transactions for 16 species, please go here.

Statewide Mixed Hardwood cords price trends (Copyright: Forest Data Network)

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