The Lumber Provide Chain is Going In opposition to the Grain!

For a small constructing undertaking I used to be planning I not too long ago went to the native ironmongery store to choose up some 2″ x 4″ x 8′ boards. I had heard that the worth of lumber had elevated however I hadn’t paid that a lot consideration to what was occurring.

Till I went to the cashier, that’s.

These boards price over $12 Canadian, EACH! For an additional constructing undertaking I labored on solely a few years in the past, my obscure reminiscence is that they had been about $3-4 every. WOW!

I solely wanted a half dozen boards so the general price impression wasn’t that a lot in my case. However I might solely think about the big impression for individuals with a lot greater initiatives, or for these constructing and shopping for homes.

What on earth was occurring within the Lumber Provide Chain?

Lumber Market Dynamics

The worth of lumber is so excessive that I’ve to imagine that it has gone past the extent of affordability for lots of people. But my accountant advised me that on the finish of the 2020 the companies that had been most positively impacted by the pandemic had been renovation companies. With so many individuals working from, and staying at, residence, they had been extra inclined to spend their cash on residence renovations.

Did the pandemic drive such a spike in demand that provide couldn’t sustain, forcing costs to extend?

Tradingeconomics.com gives this abstract as of June, 2021:

“Lumber prolonged losses to commerce under $800 per thousand board ft, the bottom stage since January and shifting additional away from an all-time excessive of virtually $1,700 hit on Could seventh as demand continues to gradual whereas sawmills make investments to extend output. Vaccinated People began to journey, e-book holidays, and have interaction in actions that had been restricted by the pandemic, as an alternative of spending on residence renovations and DIY work.

Additionally, greater constructing prices and a declining availability of wooden are beginning to weigh available on the market and slowing the sturdy tempo of homebuilding. Though supply-chain disruptions persist and only a few new mills are constructed, the speedy decline in lumber costs from mid-Could suggests a bubble has burst. Nonetheless, the housing deficit within the US hints building will stay a shiny spot within the coming years, with costs of lumber remaining above pre-pandemic ranges for a while.”

Lumber pricing (USD/1000 board price) over the past 5 years is proven by tradingeconomics.com as follows:

Clearly there was a spike from a low in April, 2020 rising in September 2020, after which taking off to a peak in Could, 2021. Lumber costs are up over 400% from Could, 2020 to Could, 2021. With vaccine deployment up to now upfront of final yr, when there was no vaccine, and life beginning to get again to “regular”, why would there be such an enormous improve in pricing now?

Provide and Demand

As with many different supplies, the pandemic has had probably the most exceptional impression on demand for, and the provision of, lumber.

Provide Aspect Impacts

There was already an issue with mill closures as a consequence of excessive prices, previous to the measures caused because of the pandemic. These closures reduce trade manufacturing capability and output previous to the onset of the pandemic.

When the pandemic started lockdowns had been put in place all world wide. The impression of those lockdowns was that factories and mills had been closed (in complete or partially), limiting the quantity of provide. Workers had been both pressured to remain at residence as a consequence of work stoppages, social distancing measures, infections, and quarantine mandates. Output capability and productiveness was severely lowered.

On high of that a variety of different elements conspired to restrict provide earlier than and through the pandemic:

  • Wildfires within the Pacific Northwest
  • Mountain pine beetle infestations
  • U.S tariffs on the importation of softwood lumber from Canada
  • Annual Allowable Reduce reductions in British Columbia

With the ability to harvest and reduce the lumber is barely part of the story. These logs and lumber have to be moved via the Provide Chain as effectively. That brings up the additional provide impacts brought on by logistics and transportation dynamics.

There are usually not sufficient truck drivers and heavy gear to maneuver all of those items. Lockdown and social distancing measures have impacted this space, in addition to inadequate useful resource to maneuver the larger demand for items.

Demand Aspect Impacts

With many individuals pressured to remain at residence for an prolonged interval, with restricted choices for actions or motion outdoors the house, they turned to doing residence renovations, making a spike in demand on the similar time that there was a contraction of provide.

In Canada and the U.S. the housing market has been white sizzling, additional fuelled by constantly low rates of interest. This demand for brand spanking new (and resale) properties has pushed up pricing considerably, a perform of excessive demand, brief provide, and better building prices.

People who find themselves now working from residence, frequently for the foreseeable future, are extra inclined to:

  • search for new housing
  • begin residence renovation exercise for residence workplaces and different initiatives

As affirmation that residence renovations and building had been up, in Could, 2021 Residence Depot reported first quarter 2021 gross sales 32.7% greater than the primary quarter of 2020. As acknowledged of their quarterly buyers name, “on the finish of the primary quarter final yr, a sheet of seven/16” OSB was roughly $9.55. As we exited the primary quarter this yr, that very same sheet of OSB greater than quadrupled in value to $39.76.”

Pricing Impacts

In consideration of all of those elements contributing to brief provide and powerful demand, costs have elevated considerably, as we’ve indicated earlier. Whereas market pricing, as of June 2021, appears to have peaked in Could, 2021, it’s nonetheless considerably greater than than a yr in the past.

The market should nonetheless be in a mode of correction as a result of many different elements recommend that pricing needs to be dropping additional.

Important vaccine deployment signifies that very excessive percentages of the inhabitants have had no less than one dose of the vaccine, if not two, within the U.S. and Canada. Concurrent with vaccine deployment charges extra jurisdictions are stress-free pandemic associated restrictions and lockdowns. Individuals are beginning to get again to extra regular actions, which can solely improve additional, which means they’re much less focussed on doing these residence renovations.

Larger vaccination charges additionally signifies that extra workers will be capable of return to work. This may deliver extra mill throughput again on-line in addition to extra truck driver capability.

The dramatic value will increase have additionally raised the spectre of affordability. New residence building prices alone are tens of 1000’s of {dollars} greater at present value ranges. Many individuals had been already feeling earnings impacts because of the pandemic. So when the newest prices of these desired renovations is taken into account many of those initiatives are price prohibitive. The result’s that many individuals are ready till costs come right down to some decrease stage.

Even when somebody needs to begin their undertaking, regardless of the excessive pricing, there’s nonetheless not sufficient provide out there. As such they’re pressured to attend it out, which means that they aren’t shopping for now. This curtailment of demand, as a consequence of lack of provide, must also contribute to downward value stress going ahead.


The pandemic has been indiscriminate as to which Provide Chains it has impacted. From rest room paper to healthcare provides (eg. masks) to fireworks to lumber, just about nothing has been untouched by the Coronavirus.

The lumber market dynamics are very attention-grabbing. Who would have thought that the lumber Provide Chain can be so unstable, and never simply the kind of commodity that we principally ignore? It’s almost definitely that lumber pricing will settle right down to some extra reasonably priced stage, although not essentially to the pre-pandemic lows that we had been used to.

Then once more, till provide catches as much as demand the surroundings nonetheless exists for prolonged, sturdy pricing. The continued rise in pricing from 2020, after we had been deep in the midst of the pandemic, to peak in Could, 2021, after we are beginning to emerge from the pandemic, means that we’re nonetheless a manner off from provide and demand coming again right into a balanced state.

The total lesson is that ANY Provide Chain is weak to pure, or man-made, disasters and occasions. It’s vital to create as a lot resiliency in your Provide Chain as doable, it doesn’t matter what trade you might be in.

Lumber Provide Chain article initially printed on July 6, 2021.

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