In the 3Q 2014, US export volumes to Asia were down by almost 25% from the 2Q/14, with Chinese shipments down by over 32% to their lowest quarterly volumes since the 1Q/13. The total volume shipped to Asia in the 3Q was at its lowest level in over two years. The two major factors influencing the decline in log shipments from the US to China are decreased demand for wood from the housing sector and high log inventories within China itself.
The weaker demand for logs in the export market has resulted in lower log export prices during the summer and fall. The average export value reached an all-time high in the first quarter this year and has since fallen over six percent. The slowdown in the log export shipments has been welcome news for sawmills on the US west coast.
Prices for Douglas-fir sawlogs in the 3Q/14 were down nine percent from their eight-year high in the 1Q/14. Despite the recent decline, current price levels in the Northwest are still 13-25% higher than the ten-year price averages, depending on species and sub-region. Interestingly, the price decline that was experienced in 2014 may be short-lived. There are reports that both domestic and export log prices stopped falling during the 4Q, mainly as a result of higher production levels at the region’s sawmills.