Tuesday, November 15, 2016
North American wood fiber prices have trended downward for most of 2015 and 2016 with prices in the 3Q/16 being at their lowest levels in over two years. Wood fiber costs for pulpmills in Canada and the US have fallen over the past year as a result of higher availability of residual chips from the continent’s sawmills, reports the North American Wood Fiber Review (NAWFR).
Prices for wood fiber consumed by the pulp industry in North America have fallen over the past year in all regions of the continent with the exception of the US South. The biggest declines have been in the northwestern and northeastern US where prices have fallen between 10-15% from the 3Q/15 to the 3Q/16.
In the US Northwest, where a majority of the fiber furnish is sawmills residuals, prices have fallen 11% in one year but are still higher than the 25-year average price. Current price levels for softwood chips in Washington and Oregon are the second highest in North America, behind the Lake States region. The lowest cost regions for chips are the US South, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec.
Healthy operating rates at the sawmills in the Pacific Northwest and high chip inventories at the region’s pulpmills are the major factors behind the recent price declines, and this downward trend is likely to continue into the 4Q/16. The high supply of residual chips has resulted in less demand for costlier roundwood chips, leading to declining pulplog prices. The average prices for Douglas-fir and hemlock log prices were 13% lower in the 3Q/16 as compared to the 3Q/15, according to the NAWFR.
Canadian wood fiber prices, in US dollar terms, have come down substantially from their record highs in 2012. Pulpmills throughout Canada have become much more competitive over the past few years and have gone from having the highest wood fiber costs in North America five years ago to currently having the lowest costs on the continent.