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Timber Owners View Market Opportunities
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Timber markets are showing some promise for landowners wanting to sell trees this summer.
Dr. Bob Daniels, forestry specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said the market has been slow, but it is improving -- bucking the tradition of waning prices as harvesting becomes easier in the summer months.
"The first third of 1999 has seen good, but not great, prices for pine and hardwood sawtimber, and poor demand for pulpwood. Pine lumber prices have been trending up since late January," Daniels said.
"Many landowners have been holding their timber off the market since last fall waiting for record prices like we saw in February 1998. Those prices didn't materialize this year, but pine sawtimber prices across the state are averaging between $400 and $475 per 1,000 board feet," he said. "Prices tend to be higher in Central and South Mississippi. These prices are good, but not record, prices for standing pine timber."
Daniels said fewer-than-normal timber sales early this year has many buyers wanting more timber this summer.
"Mississippi had a fairly dry winter which enabled mills to keep log inventories relatively high. But now, many have smaller standing timber inventories than normal," Daniels said. "That means the next three months could be a good time for landowners to put timber on the market because buyers are wanting tracts to improve those standing inventories."
Landowners with tracts having a high percentage of sawtimber could expect more bidding than normal.
"From the middle of March to the middle of May, timber sales were attracting six to eight, or up to 13 bids," Daniels said.
The market price for pine lumber is still suffering because of an abundance of softwood lumber on the U.S. market, but it has been moving up lately. The financial crisis in Asia has resulted in less lumber exports from the West Coast. That surplus lumber competes in the market with Southern pine from the Southeast.
Daniels said Mississippi's pulpwood markets, especially hardwood, have been depressed.
"The demand for pine pulpwood is down, but the demand for hardwood pulpwood is close to zero," Daniels said.
Pulpwood prices have been a factor in landowner decisions not to sell timber, and tracts with lots of pulpwood are in less demand in today's market. Pine pulpwood is selling for about $22 to $26 per cord and hardwood pulpwood is $11 to $16 per cord. Daniels said he doesn't expect much improvement in pulpwood markets until the fall.