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The first autumn auctions in France have just been launched by France’s Natonal Forest Office (ONF) in a general uncertain political-economic climate. This lack of prospects also concerns the timber market in France.

This is one of the conclusions to be drawn from the auction of September 8, 2020 which was not held in Beaune (Côte d’Or), as usual, but in Châtenoy-le-Royal (Saône-et-Loire) due to Covid-19. The entire auction therefore took place entirely online without the physical presence of buyers and observers in the auction room.

The results of this sale of high-quality oaks from the Saône valley show that many processors are still cautious.

In this troubled context, the good news come from the very satisfactory demand. “At the same sale in September 2019, the average number of bids did not exceed 4.5 bids per lot. Today, it has reached 6 offers ”, says Régis Anglaret, in charge of the hardwood sales at the ONF Bourgogne Franche-Comté.

However, oak prices are undergoing downward pressure on certain qualities. This is especially the case for small roundwood assortments whose prices are falling by almost 20% year-on-year (see table below). And over 2 years, the drop is close to 35%.

However, and this is the second good news of the auction, good qualities are attractive. According to our calculations, joining those of the ONF and the buyers, logs of 3 m3 and more are negotiated at prices increasing by 5% on average over one year.

However, the market’s sluggishness was confirmed. Schematically, the prices of Burgundy oak have returned to the level of those of autumn 2015. This means that wood of 1.5 m3 is now negotiated on the average basis of 100 € / m3, the 2 m3 sold at 150 € / m3, while logs of 3 m3 start around 200 € / m3. Over 2 years, the average decrease is around 25%.

Depending on the companies and their strategies (volume transformed, types of products, markets, upstream-downstream inventory status, cash flow, risk management, profit taking, etc.), the market picture differs greatly. Sawmills acting at an industrial level, therefore on intermediate qualities preach caution in purchasing. “I prefer the purchase prices rather than the volumes to enter the sawmill” , David Chavot tells us. “And I am betting on holding prices more in line with the reality of the markets in the coming months,” adds the director of Margaritelli Fontaines.

For medium-sized sawyers, the situation is described as follows. “Indeed, we are seeing a lull in the markets for secondary sawnwood destined for Europe, with parquet flooring industry operating at 60-70% of the capacity. In addition, it seems that exports of logs to Asia are slowing down. » , says Eric Cartailler, manager of the Colas sawmill in Ain.          

    LOWER PRICES FOR SMALL OAKS IN BURGUNDY

Price in euros / m3 

              ONF public sales in Châtillon-le-Royal (Saône-et-Loire)

Q3 / 2017

Q3 / 2018

Q3 / 2019

Q3 / 2020

Change

2019-2020

Change

2018-2020

1,5 m3

140

150

125

102

-18.4%

-32%

2 m3

186

204

162

151

-6.8%

-26%

2,5 m3

223

245

190

188

-1.1%

-23.2%

3 m3

250

279

216

218

+ 0.9%

-21.9%

3,5 m3

275

308

237

243

+ 2.5%

-21.1%

4 m3

295

334

253

266

+ 5.1%

-20.4%

4,5 m3

314

356

268

286

+ 6.7%

-19.7%

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