By Lauren Grand, OSU Extension Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Lane County
Our log prices have never been predictable. However, one could argue that they could predict the best time of year or even month to sell their logs based on historical trends. This is because our log prices tend to have seasonal rises and falls with micro corrections based on circumstances such as weather, fire, foreign policy, and the lumber markets. When looking at a graph of the average prices of Douglas-fir logs over the last 25 years, you should be able to predict that the best time to sell should be the in the early spring, March and April, when prices have been the highest. The worst time to sell is the summer when the market is flooded and the prices are the lowest.
This year, all bets are off. Our market has been erratic to say the least. In the next graph you’ll see that the prices we’ve recorded follow the trend above from 2012-2016, but after that the trend goes haywire. Prices rise and fall erratically through 2016 and then take off on a steady rise through the spring of 2018. Once the summer of 2018 hits, prices fall quickly before bouncing up and down again for the next year. Additionally, prices unexpectedly came up last month, but not at all mills. Some mills were comfortable with their inventories as the lumber market came on hot and heavy. However, some mills were nervous about meeting their inventory needs as a result of the wet September slowing down wood coming out of the hills. Now that drier weather is upon us and some new rocked roads are in place, inventory is rising again and prices have seemed to cool off for now.
Douglas-fir prices are currently sitting around $650 – $695 /mbf for 2mill and $650/mbf for the 8-11 inch at the small end. If you are selling it all in a camp run then you are still seeing a pretty good price at $660/mbf. If history teaches us anything we’d know that typically it takes a few months before prices start to rise again, but with the way things are going this year we will just have to wait and see.
The Hem-fir sorts (spruce, hemlock, grand and white fir) are fairly variable now as well. Prices range widely depending on the buyer and what you’ve got, but seem to be more favorable than last quarters report. Currently prices are in the $380-$535 /mbf range. Roseburg’s prices are slightly higher ranging from $450-$500.
Pine prices in the southwest are holding steady around $400/mbf. If you are selling pine, consider your trucking distance. At these prices, if you have to move it too far, you may be losing money instead of making it. That being said, rumors of light at the end of the tunnel are starting to surface. Hopefully I’ll have higher prices for you with my next report, but no promises.
Typically, trends in the Alder market follow Douglas-fir, but more recently have been slowing and flattening out. Unfortunately, production in many mills has slowed down with lower demand for raw wood furnishings in homes. Someone call HGTV and tell them what’s up! As a result, prices have come off a bit since the last report especially for the small diameter logs. Alder prices range between $400 and $600/MBF for the 7” and up sorts. Prices increase with diameter increases.
Incense-cedar and redcedar prices are holding pretty steady with a slight decline from the last report. Current values of incense-cedar in the south valley are running close to $650 for long logs. Incense-cedar in Douglas County is usually purchased at slightly higher values, in the $750 range. Western redcedar prices are still lower than they have been in the recent past and are $50 down from last quarter at $800/MBF for a long-log and $50 less in Roseburg. Short log values decline by another $100-$200 depending on the length. Port-Orford-cedar prices are holding steady in the $500-$550 range.
Usually I don’t have much good to say about chips and that theme continues. Due to all the terrible winters we’ve been having coupled with summers of intense drought. There have been lots of landowners trying to salvage the damage. As a result the chip market is overrun and few people are buying. If they are buying, prices are low $20/ton.
Last, but not least non-timber forest products. While floral greens wholesale orders are finished right now, you may be able to get in some smaller contracts for home use. These buyers are typically looking for salal, fern, and huckleberry. Mushroom season is also upon us. We’ve had lots of rain early which means lots of mushrooms, without getting too soggy. Mushrooms typically claim a large sum, but they have to look good and be clean. With mushroom popularity increasing, lots of pickers have flooded the market and prices are way down. Chanterelles usually claim a decent $6-$8 per pound, but this year they are down to $1.50. If you have the time and patience, it’s worth the reward especially if you are just collecting for yourself. Always, be 100% sure you know what you are eating. If not, contact your mycological society for some good resources.
This year has certainly been an unpredictable one, especially with different buyers offering drastically different prices. But, that’s what makes it interesting! Because this market has been so unpredictable, make sure you are calling around to multiple buyers to make sure you get the best price for your logs. Hope you enjoy your holiday season!