Timber declines to 11-year low


[Western Wood Products Association]  PORTLAND, Ore. – With the housing market on the ropes, lumber production at Western sawmills in 2007 slipped for the second straight year to the lowest annual volume in more than a decade, according to final production figures prepared by Western Wood Products Association.

Mills in the 12 Western states produced 16.32 billion board feet of softwood lumber in 2007, down 9.3 percent from the previous year. The estimated wholesale value of the lumber was $6.1 billion, compared to $6.8 billion in 2006. The volume was the lowest since 1996, when Western mills produced just 15.8 billion board feet.
WWPA compiled the final industry totals for 2007 following its annual survey of some 199 mills operating in the continental West.

While Oregon retained its title as the largest lumber producing state in the country, mills in the state were hammered much more by the nearly 25 percent downturn in housing starts compared to other Western states. Oregon sawmills cut 6.18 billion board feet of lumber in 2007, down 12.2 percent. Only Montana fared worse during the year, with production falling 13.8 percent to 790 million board feet.

The estimated wholesale value of Oregon lumber production was $2.19 billion, while Montana’s production was valued at $281 million.

Production at mills in Washington state declined 7.2 percent to 4.76 billion board feet. The estimated wholesale value of the state’s production was $1.75 billion.
California lumber output fell to 2.31 billion board feet valued at $1.04 billion in 2007, a 10.8 percent decrease from the volume a year earlier.

At other Western states, Idaho lumber production totaled 1.75 billion board feet, down 5.1 percent. Production in South Dakota and Wyoming in 2007 was 291 million board feet and mills in the Four Corner states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah produced 234 million board feet. Volumes in these states were combined to maintain the confidentiality of individual mill data.

U.S. lumber consumption fell by 14 percent to 52.2 billion board feet from 2006 totals. Since reaching an all-time record of 64.3 billion board feet in 2005, lumber demand has dropped by 12 billion board feet – equivalent to the annual production in Oregon, Washington and California.

Housing starts totaled just 1.36 million for 2007, far lower than the 2.07 million starts recorded two years earlier. The decline has been unwelcome news for lumber mills, as new home construction and repair/remodeling accounts for nearly three-fourths of the lumber used annually.

Production in the southern U.S. decreased 9.2 percent to 16.99 billion board feet. Lumber imports declined more steeply, falling 19.4 percent to 18.39 billion board feet. Canada, the largest lumber supplier to the U.S. market, shipped 17 percent less lumber to the U.S. in 2007. Non-Canadian lumber imports from Europe, South America and New Zealand plummeted 35.5 percent.

Western Wood Products Association represents lumber manufacturers in the 12 Western states. Based in Portland, WWPA compiles lumber industry statistics and provides business information services to mills. The Association also delivers quality standards, technical and product support services to the industry.
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