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Global sawlog prices hardly change in Q1 from Q4, despite trade interruptions, uncertainty about short-term lumber demand in key markets; wood fiber costs drop for many hardwood pulp-producing countries, biggest declines in US, Russia, Latin America.

There were relatively few price changes for sawlogs throughout the world in the 1Q/20 despite interruptions in trade and uncertainty in short-term lumber demand in many of the key markets.

The Global Sawlog Price Index (GSPI) remained practically unchanged from the 4Q/19 to the 1Q/20. This followed a period of two years when the Index was in constant decline

Over the past two decades, sawlog prices in Eastern Europe have gone up the most on the continent, albeit from low levels, while prices in Central Europe have declined substantially, particularly in 2019.

Global Pulpwood Markets

Wood fiber costs fell for many hardwood pulp-producing countries worldwide in the 1Q/20. The biggest declines were seen in the US Russia, and Latin America.

The Hardwood Fiber Price Index (HFPI) dropped 4.2% in the 1Q/20. This was the fourth q-o-q decline, resulting in a 9.2% reduction of the Index since the 1Q/19 and the lowest price in four years.

The Softwood Fiber Price Index (SFPI) also spent last year in decline, although not as severe of one as the HFPI.

Global Pulp Markets

Following a plunge in pulp prices of almost 30% in Europe and approximately 20% in North America from late 2018 to late 2019, prices bottomed out and even saw small price increases in early 2020.

The premium for softwood pulp over hardwood pulp is currently about $160/ton, the highest premium in over a year, and substantially more than the ten-years’ average premium of $106/ton.

Global Lumber Markets

Importation of softwood lumber to the US fell for the third consecutive year in 2019. However, in the 1Q/20, the import volume was up y-o-y, and the month of March was surprisingly strong despite the Coronavirus Epidemic.

Softwood lumber imports to China plunged in the 1Q/20, 14% lower than the previous quarter and 37% lower than the all-time-high in the 2Q/19.

Profitability generally improved for lumber producers around the world in the 1Q/20. This followed a year of mostly gloomy financial news with many lumber producers making very low or even no profits at all.

Declining export prices for sawmills in the Nordic countries coupled with only incremental reductions in log costs gradually reduced profitability during 2019 and early 2020.

Global Biomass Markets

Domestic prices for residential pellets in the three major markets in Europe (Austria, Germany and Sweden) held up quite well during the first five months of 2020 and were just slightly lower than during the same period in 2019.

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