Sawn softwood sales begin to rise

Coming in at 255,488 m3 in May, sawn softwood sales were almost 13% higher than in April, recording their strongest sales in eight months. Despite the apparent turn around in sales, over the year-ended May 2019, sales of sawn softwood were 5.1% lower than a year earlier, at 2.975 million m3.

As we can see in the chart below, sales of sawn softwood slipped from their peak in early 2018 to fall below the trend of the last five years on a monthly basis and to correct below three million cubic metres on an annualized basis.


To go straight to the dashboard and take a closer look at the data, click here.

It is always worth checking in to see what grades are performing better and worse than one another. Based on the self-reported, blind entry data in the FWPA portal, we can see that most grades experienced declines over the last year. 


To go straight to the dashboard and take a closer look at the data, click here.

The chart below shows the details. In some respects, of greatest interest is the almost uniform decline in sales of structural grade products. Leaving aside the 18.8% decline in sales of the Structural >120 mm (an untreated product), the proximity of the falls of the other structural grades suggests the market is about 10% smaller than it was a year ago.


Grade YE May 18 YE May '19 % Change
Outdoor Domestic 249,564  240,106 -3.8
Fencing 107,704 102,692 -4.7
Appearance 17,461 15,161 -13.2
Structural < 120mm 751,165 680,232 -9.4
Structural > 120mm 70,814 57,528 -18.8
Treated Structural < 120mm 747,808 670,966 -10.3
Treated Structural > 120mm 54,263 48,746  -10.2
Landscaping 161,888 132,298 -18.3
Poles 35,318 32,727 -7.3
Packaging 500,429 595,891 19.1
Ungraded 289,798 294,729  1.7
Export 147,891 104,365 -29.4
Total 3,134,104 2,975,442 -5.1

Structural grades aside, sales Export (-29.4%), Landscaping (-18.3%) and Appearance grade (-13.2%) bore the brunt of the last year’s pain.


The obvious winner was the Packaging grade, sales of which rose more than 95,000 m3, up 19.1% on the prior year.

As summer arrives each year, we are reminded that ‘one swallow does not a summer make’. It is important that this potential green shoot of recovery in sawn softwood sales not be over-baked. It could be a blip, but the signs suggest it may well be the first swallow up, from the bottom of the cycle.