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Dry Harvest Conditions Hurt Pulpwood Prices
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Two relatively dry years are enabling loggers to reach less accessible trees, creating an oversupply of timber during a season that traditionally has sluggish markets.
"The extended dry weather is compounding the problem with prices, especially pulpwood," said Bob Daniels, forestry specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Pulp mills are only buying the wood needed immediately, so inventories back up in the woods."
Despite improving paper industry production levels, Daniels described pulpwood markets in Central and South Mississippi as dead, with the best markets in North Mississippi.
Pine pulpwood is between $8 and $10 per ton, which is 15 percent less than six months ago. Over that same period, hardwood pulpwood prices have dropped about 10 percent to $6 or $7 per ton. Daniels said hardwood pulpwood is moving better than pine, but both are sluggish.
"The drought has made so much timber available right now that prices are really weak," Daniels said.
Daniels said if landowners wanting to thin their pine plantations are having difficulty finding a good market, they should just wait out the oversupply for better markets in the fall.
"The brightest spot in the timber market is oak saw timber," Daniels said. "The extra dry conditions mean loggers have access to some of the best hardwood timber located in normally-wet areas. For those landowners with good quality oak to sell, the market is there."
Daniels said the market for pine and oak saw logs has been holding steady. Red oak logs have averaged around $370 per thousand board feet, which is about 25 percent higher than six months ago. Some prices for the best grade have been as high as $450. Pine saw timber has been steady around $450 per thousand board feet, but Daniels said the sales volume seems low.
Despite some Alabama counties with epidemic levels of southern pine beetles, Mississippi has not had any serious outbreaks yet.
"With these kinds of dry conditions, we expect to see southern pine beetle problems begin," Daniels said. "So far, we just have some isolated spots, but timber owners should stay on guard for beetle problems."1