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PF Olsen NZ log market report – April 2024

2 May 2024

Market Summary

At Wharf Gate (AWG) log prices across New Zealand dropped an average of 17% in April. April AWG log prices are about 15% below the two-year average. CFR prices for A grade logs in China have bottomed in the range of 110-116 USD per JASm3. Rising inventory levels in China have now stabilised and log demand has increased to around 75k m3 per day. Log supply from New Zealand has reduced about 25% in April.

Domestic demand for sawn timber is slowing down for winter, with very little forward orders. Sawmillers predict 2024 will be tougher than 2023.

The PF Olsen Log Price Index dropped $9 in April to $113. This is $6 below the two-year average, and $8 below the three and five-year averages.

Domestic Log Market

Sawmills have seen local demand slow as we end the New Zealand summer. Mills report very low forward orders, indeed worse than this time last year. Demand from Australia is also very low.

Sales of sawn timber in Asia are solid, but these grades are always produced as arisings when cutting domestic grades. Therefore, while this market helps, it doesn’t sustain New Zealand sawmills without a solid domestic market.

Export Log Markets – China

China log inventory which had been rising through March, has now stabilised with softwood (which is mainly New Zealand radiata pine) levels at about 3.3-3.4m m3. Daily off-take has increased to about 75k per day, which is as healthy as the demand has been in the last couple of years. Market sentiment, however, remains weak with virtually everyone in the supply chain in China still struggling to consistently make a profitable margin. This increase in log buying seems to be more a reaction to wholesalers dropping prices rather than a fundamental increase in demand.

Log supply from New Zealand has dropped quickly in reaction to the lower AWG pricing levels, with 25% less log vessels in April than March. This is due to a combination of factors; wetter Autumn weather slowing down harvest, harvest jobs stopping or slowing due to price levels, volume now being sold in India, and less volume from the CNI windthrow. Log supply to China will slow down even more in May.

The sale price for A grade pine logs in China seems to have bottomed in the 110-116 USD range.

The China Caixin Manufacturing PMI increased from 50.9 in February to 51.1 in March. (Any number above 50 signals manufacturing growth). This was boosted by higher new orders from both domestic and abroad, which increased the most in over a year. Firms are still cutting selling prices to stimulate demand. Input prices fell marginally for the first time since July 2023, due to lower raw material costs.

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Scott Downs, Director Sales & Marketing, PF Olsen Ltd
Source: PF Olsen

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