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Forestry Sets New State Record Again
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The forestry industry continued its record breaking pace in the state, setting its 10th record in 11 years with 1997's estimated value of $1.22 billion.
Dr. Bob Daniels, extension forestry specialist at Mississippi State University, projected a 3 percent increase over 1996's forestry value. Pine prices and production were up, while hardwood saw a slight price increase and harvest decrease.
"Timber production should finish 1997 strong with markets for Southern pine and red oak saw timber good in the final months of the year and the pulp and paper industry ahead of 1996," Daniels said.
Steve Corbitt, executive vice president of the Mississippi Forestry Association, said the year was better than 1996.
"From our perspective, the solid wood industry has had a pretty good year, and the markets and prices landowners received for timber were good most of the year," Corbitt said.
"The pulp and paper industry rebounded slowly in 1997 from a poor market the last few years," he said. "The pulp and paper industry is a huge consumer of the forest products."
Improvement in both segments of the forestry industry reflects positively on the health of the overall industry in Mississippi, Corbitt said.
"Pine saw timber prices have been strong this year with a 24 percent increase," Daniels said. "Prices for pine pulpwood are up 10 percent, and hardwood pulpwood prices are up 4 percent."
The estimated value of 1997 forestry production is based on volume indications through September, which were about 7 percent lower than 1996. However, fourth quarter harvests for 1997 appear to have increased.
"With strong price increases in 1997, we're going to have an increased timber value even with lower volume," Daniels said.
Daniels predicted the lower harvest volume is because less hardwood was harvested. But Southern pine lumber production in the region is up 5 percent from last year's record lumber production of 15.2 billion board feet.
Some of this increase was caused when one of the state's seven major pulp and paper mills left hardwood and shifted entirely to pine, Corbitt said.
Pine represents 70 percent of the state's forest products value. Pine and hardwood pulpwood, which account for about one-third of the harvest value, had a good year.
Mill log and pulp inventories became an issue in the second half of the year, Corbitt said.
"In the summer when it's really dry, loggers often move to hardwood tracts they had not been able to get into before," he said. "But when loggers shifted back to pine to fill inventories, it started raining again and now mills are short of pine."
Daniels said a 1993 study measuring the direct and indirect economic impact the forestry industry has on the state found timber production was an $11.4 billion industry in Mississippi. Wages of $2.8 billion annually support the 130,000 jobs, or 10 percent of the state's employment, that have their roots in the forestry industry.
"Timber production is very important to all of us in the state," Daniels said. "Anyone who has forest land should manage it for full production because the timber market is strong and prices are good. Timber is a renewable resource and we should continue to keep our forest land productive."
Indications are that 1998 is shaping up to be a good year, Daniels said. Housing starts, an indicator of softwood lumber demand for construction and hardwood lumber for furniture and finishing, was up 8 percent through September.
"Building permits, which some say is a better indicator of future markets, were up 11 percent from 1996 in September," Daniels said. "New home sales in the South are also up 3 percent in the last six months."