Softwood timber sales record sixteenth consecutive month of growth
Sales of Australia’s sawn softwood supplies recorded their sixteenth successive month of year-end growth in January 2017, with sales totalling 3,134,445 m3. January was also the sixth successive month that year-end sales exceeded 3 million m3. Moreover, compared with the prior January, sales in January 2017 were up 5.0% to a record 197,986 m3.
January is always the month in which the lowest sales are recorded, as the chart below shows, while November is generally the month in which the highest sales are recorded.
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Dwellings approved up to two years ago are still being constructed, which accounts for the strength in sales over the last few months. It also suggests that although the peak in housing approvals are over, Australia has not yet reached the peak of its housing construction activity, although it is clearly nearing.
Expectations are therefore that sales will rise a little higher, but how much more capacity for growth exists is an increasingly important question. This is not just about capacity of mills, it is also a question of the marginal capacity of the entire supply chain to cope with what could be increased sales volumes.
The chart below shows the relative proportion of sales of the various grades, for the year-ended January 2017.
The four structural grades (untreated <120mm, untreated >120mm, LOSP and treated H2F accounted for more than half – 50.5%- of all sales for the year-ended January 2017. This is unsurprising and ultimately, is likely to be higher, with some timbers sold in the other grades also having structural applications, albeit outdoors.
Notably the treated H2F grade – essentially the treated cousin of the untreated Structural <120mm – is on equal footing in sales volume terms and should, based on the trends, become the dominant product on a year-end basis over the next two to three months. It already holds that mantle on a month-on-month basis.