Ask an expert: Why is there a shortage of wood? | Local
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has experienced shortages of medical equipment, manufacturing products, and even consumer goods like toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Now there is a shortage of lumber in the country, causing prices to soar.
Lumber prices hit an all-time high of $ 1,686 per thousand board feet this month, a 406% increase from the $ 333 it traded in the same period last year. As a result, the price of a new single-family home has increased by nearly $ 36,000, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
We spoke with Robert Bardon, professor of forestry and environmental resources and associate dean of extension at the College of Natural Resources, to find out what is causing the wood shortage and to discuss the importance of wood to the economy. Here is what we found out.
Question: What is causing the shortage of wood and soaring prices?
Reply: The lack of wood available in stores is less related to a shortage of trees or even to wood production. What is behind the increase in lumber prices are the recent convergence of Canadian lumber prices, increased demand for home renovations and construction caused by the pandemic and the hiccups of the transport-related offer.
At the start of the pandemic, lumber demand was down slightly and sawmill inventories were down, but in the spring of last year we saw people moving into home improvement projects, buying a home. house or build a new house, which has resulted in increased demand for lumber. .
The industry, affected by the pandemic, had to adjust its operations, which initially slowed production, leading to a decrease in supply. Lack of transportation to transport lumber from sawmills to concessionaires also plays a role in increasing lumber prices. The pandemic has reduced the number of drivers and impacted rail transportation, making it difficult for sawmills to ship lumber to dealers.
Q: When will the wood shortage end?
A: As the pandemic exits, we should see wood prices fall to more normal levels, like what we saw before the pandemic. This will likely be due to an increase in the available supply as we overcome transportation challenges and sawmills continue to produce lumber.
Q: Have there been similar wood shortages and price spikes in the past?
A: I am not aware of similar spikes in lumber prices like the ones we are seeing now.
Q: Why is wood important to the economy, especially in North Carolina?
A: Lumber production is important to the economy of North Carolina, as timber production is part of the forestry sector, which contributes significantly to the economic well-being of North Carolina. In 2019, North Carolina’s forestry sector contributed $ 34.9 billion in industrial production to the North Carolina economy, supporting more than 148,000 full-time and part-time jobs with a payroll of approximately $ 8.4 billion. The forestry sector continues to be the largest employer among the state’s manufacturing sectors.
Q: Can you explain the wood supply chain cycle?
A: In North Carolina, forest covers about 18.1 million acres of land, or about 58 percent of North Carolina’s land area. Ownership of these forests can be divided into three ownership groups: private non-industrial property, which owns 75% of the forest; government properties, which own 18% of the forest; and the properties of private industry, which own 7% of the forest. These are the private properties in which more than 95% of the timber is harvested.
Of the timber harvested, approximately 43% is harvested for timber production. The remaining wood harvested is used in the manufacture of other value-added products, such as paper, veneer, composites and bioenergy. A typical cycle in the supply chain involves the owner of the timber, the buyer, the lumberjack and the mill. The timber owner can sell the timber on his own or seek help from a consultant forester. Timber is sold either as part of a flat-rate sales process or individually, depending on the conditions of sale.
Sale notices are sent to potential timber buyers, who may work directly for the mill or perhaps freelance. After a lumber buyer purchases the trees, he lines up a lumberjack to harvest the trees. As the logger harvests the trees, they are brought to an area of the forest where the trees are made into logs and sorted according to the products they can produce. The logs are sorted and loaded onto trucks for shipment to the mill for processing into value-added products such as lumber.
This was originally published in the North Carolina State University College of Natural Resources News.