Demand for lumber declines worldwide, pushing prices for sawlogs down from record highs

Demand for lumber declines worldwide, pushing prices for sawlogs down from record highs

March 28, 2023

Photo: Lumber Mill in Rainier Oregon / Depositphotos

In 4Q 2022, the demand for lumber decreases worldwide, relaxing prices for sawlogs down from record highs. The Global Sawlog Price Index (GSPI) has fallen for two consecutive quarters from its all-time high in the 2Q 2022, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly.

The most significant decreases occurred in Western North America, the Baltic States, Central Europe, and Eastern Asia. The Euro-denominated European Sawlog Price Index (ESPI) also fell in late 2022 but despite the 6% decline in six months, current sawlog prices are still close to their highest levels in over 20 years.

The Global Hardwood Fiber Price Index grew faster than the softwood fiber price index, increasing 27% over two years. WRI’s two global wood fiber price indices have trended upward for 2.5 years and were at eight-year highs in the 4Q 2022. Pulp prices in Europe and North America fell by 5-15% from September 2022 to early 2023 as global paper demand weakened. The Nordic countries accounted for 60% of Europe’s total pulp exports in 2022, an increase from accounting from less than 50% in 2013.

Lumber production was down y-o-y in three of the four major North American regions in 2022. Almost 38% of North America’s lumber is currently produced in the US South. This represents a record-high share following 13 consecutive years of increased output from the region’s sawmills. In 2022, the Nordic export markets were mixed, with strengthening demand for Swedish lumber in the US China and the MENA region. Finland was the only country in northern Europe that reduced shipments in 2022.

Demand for lumber fell in Germany in 2022, resulting in a 34% y-o-y decline in softwood lumber imports. Lumber import prices in China fell about 7% during 2022 with the most significant declines being for lumber shipped from Finland, Sweden, and Canada. The estimated lost value for Russia’s reduction in lumber exports in 2022 was about one billion dollars.

Asia increased its share of global wood pellet imports to a record 32% in the 4Q 2022. European residential and industrial wood pellet prices fell in early 2023 following all-time highs in the 4Q 2022.