North American wood fiber prices at low levels

North American wood fiber prices at low levels

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, reports the North American Wood Fiber Review (NAWFR).

Healthy operating rates at the sawmills in the Pacific Northwest and high chip inventories at the region’s pulp mills 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 pulp log 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.

Chips and pulp logs prices in the US South, which have been nearly unchanged for over a year at levels close to the highest since the 1980’s when NAWFR started tracking prices in that region, also showed some modest easing during the fall but not to the degree seen in other regions in North America.

Canadian wood fiber prices, in US dollar terms, have come down substantially from their record highs in 2012. Pulp mills 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.

In British Columbia, wood chip prices would most likely have fallen more than they have the past year had it not been for the commonly used formula linking chip prices to the NBSK pulp price, a price that has stayed fairly stable the past year.

 Source: Fordaq