Softwood timber sales heap on the records

Sales of domestically produced sawn softwood keep cranking out records, with the latest aggregates showing increases of 14.4% for the year-ended September, compared with the prior year. That means total sales amounted to 2,986,672 m3, closing in on the very significant 3 million m3 mark. Although ABARES forecasts (see later in this edition of Statistics Count) suggest sales will come off in coming months and through the next year, few would be surprised if the sector continued to out-perform and punched out yet more records.

As the chart below demonstrates, over the last four years, there have been repeated records in sales, both for individual months and on a year-end basis.

fig 1

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Continuing with the year-end analysis, September was the eleventh consecutive month in which year-end sales rose and the seventh consecutive month in which a new year-end record was set.

That is little wonder when the monthly data is examined. The wall of blue monthly bars tells the story, which shows that every month of the last year saw sales higher than the same month in the prior year.

This is a result, more than anything else, of most of the product range experiencing the joys of buoyant demand. That is, because the housing boom (read the next item in Statistics Count) has continued for so long, the structural framing market has remained consistently strong, and as dwellings have been completed, the sales of ‘later stage’ products, like Outdoor Domestic grades have remained strong.

That said, some grades are starting to come off their peaks, as the chart below shows.

fig 2

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

The other factor that modestly complicates the grade by grade data, is the extent to which there is substitution from one product to the next. The best example of that is in the structural timber grades where the treated H2F grade is rapidly over-taking the Structural <120 mm market, despite both growing over the course of the last year.

With sales recorded at 746,874 m3 for the year-ended September, Structural <120 mm still managed growth of 0.28% on the prior year, but that was dwarfed by growth of 28.47% for H2F, sales of which expanded to 706,827 m3. Put the two grades together and for the year-ended September sales totalled a mammoth 1,453,701 m3, up 12.3% on a year before and really underscoring the importance of sawn softwoods for framing the nation’s housing. Of interest is that these combined grades accounted for 48.3% of total sawn softwood sales for the year-ended September 2016.

There is some further analysis of the structural market later in this edition of Statistics Count.