Mid-year 2019 pricing data shows major price changes in state forests

Infestations, tariffs seen as contributing to price variations

MADISON, Wis. -- The latest data analysis of Wisconsin timber prices showed significant pricing variations across species and geographic regions, with several leading species across the state’s forests seeing marked price increases and declines.

Oak and maple switched positions in hardwood pricing, according to the latest public and private pricing reports produced by Forest Data Network. Maple sawlogs had lagged oak by more than $30 per thousand board feet (mbf) in the prior year, but surged strongly in early 2019 sales, with maple showing an increase of almost 22% statewide over the prior month.

In the meantime oak showed a slight decline, falling 2% over the prior year.

The latest data for the first part of the year was for 8 regions of the state and averaged for the entire state. You can purchase pricing reports here: https://www.forestdatanetwork.com/pricing/

The data also showed indications that retaliatory tariffs levelled by China in its trade dispute with the U.S. had an effect. Oak was one of a small number of log species on which 25% tariffs were imposed. However, the tariff impact was reduced in Wisconsin compared to Eastern hardwood forests, where exports play a more significant role. Oak comprises 35% of total hardwood exports in the Eastern U.S. states, according to Frank Stewart, an official with the West Virginia Forestry Association.

One operator of a large New England log yard has tracked a $100 per mbf drop in oak sawlog prices in the last year. However, prices have leveled out at that lower level, he said. Oak exports have played a larger role in that market than in Lake States, which has benefitted past pricing in that region.

The highest Chinese tariffs were on oak, beech, birch and poplar logs at 25%.

In contrast, hard maple tariffs were only at assessed at 5% along with tariffs on walnut, tulipwood and alder.

In the meantime, Wisconsin ash prices surged, according to the Forest Data Network statewide index. The 17% increase followed a pattern in areas affected by an emerald ash borer infestation. There can be a shortage for traditional usage after infestation activity leads to accelerate harvest activity. EAB is present in Wisconsin and 10 other states, according to the National Forest Service.

Ash has a variety of traditional uses including flooring and furniture and specialty products like baseball bats, lobster traps and electric guitars.

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