Global and European sawlog prices have fallen over the past two years

The Global Sawlog Price Index (GSPI) fell for the fifth consecutive quarter in the 2Q/19, reaching a two-year low. Log prices were down on all continents, with the biggest declines occurring in Europe, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly. Plentiful supply from storm-damaged and beetle-infested forests in Central Europe changed the log demand/supply balance and trade flow throughout Central and Northern Europe in the spring and summer. 

In North America, there have been only small price adjustments in the major log markets the past 12 months. The only exception is the U.S. Northwest, where sawlog prices have fallen from record highs in early 2018 to levels closer to their 25-year averages in the 2Q/19. Prices for domestically consumed Douglas-fir sawlog fell 20% from the 1Q/18 to the 2Q/19, while hemlock log prices were down 25% during the same period. Plentiful log supply, lower production at the region’s sawmills in the first six months of the year (down 2.7% from 1H/18), and reduced log exports to Asia (25% lower year-to-date than in 2018) are all factors which have driven down log prices in the first six months of 2019.

In the 2Q/19, the European Sawlog Price Index (ESPI) fell 3.7% quarter-over-quarter, reaching a nine-year low. In Euro terms, average sawlog prices in Austria and Germany have fallen almost 20% in two years, benefiting the two countries’ sawmilling industry sectors, which have had some of the highest wood raw-material costs in the world over the past 25 years. In the 2Q/19, the discrepancy between the average sawlog prices in Austria and the ESPI was at its lowest level since 2008. The log price trend in Germany has been similar to the one in Austria but the price surge from 2017 to 2019 has been even more dramatic. In the 2Q/19, the average spruce sawlog price in Germany was down 22% from the 2Q/17, as compared to the 17% decline seen in Austria during the same time period.

Prices for logs from fast-growing pine plantations in Australia, Brazil and Chile continue to be among the lowest in the world, while radiata pine prices in New Zealand have increased faster than the GSPI index and have surpassed the index during the past two years.