Washington, DC—Market shifts in recent decades have created both hardships and new opportunities for the timber producers and marketers for wood fiber residuals, according to a new report commissioned by Resources for the Future (RFF), the US Endowment for Forestry & Communities, Inc. and the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (NWPCA). The report authored by Forest2Market, Changes in the Residual Wood Fiber Market 2004 to 2017, focuses on the US South and the Pacific Northwest in analyzing the supply and demand for wood residual materials. Its key findings:
- The structural decline for hardwood fibers continues, driven by a continued decrease in demand for printing and writing papers and other end products.
- There is a buoyant demand for softwood fiber driven by strong pulp markets and bioenergy in the form of pellets.
- Renewed softwood lumber demand and capacity in the South present challenges for landowners.
- Fiber constraints in the Pacific Northwest have hindered growth, resulting in stagnant but stable and profitable markets.
Resources for the Future Vice President for Land, Water, and Nature, Dr. Ann M. Bartuska, said, “According to the report out today, a sustainable material like hardwood fiber still faces great challenges on several important fronts in the US South. For example, there has been a 25 percent decrease in the demand for hardwood fiber in the past 10 years, and the report bluntly cautions that the industry will have to address such areas to survive.” But Dr. Bartuska adds, “On the other hand, new demand for softwood fiber from the US South has increased substantially, driven in part by increased demand from the European wood pellet industry. And in these areas are reflecting a promising future.”
“While global markets continue to chase consumer trends, this report clearly demonstrates that rapidly-changing preferences present new opportunities for an evolving forest industry,” said Pete Stewart, President and CEO of Forest2Market. “While structural changes have affected the hardwood market in the South in ways that cannot be reversed, the increased demand for softwood makes the resource-dense region a profitable destination with globally-low cost structures. However, any growth opportunity in the PNW will be hamstrung due to high costs and resource constraints.”
The report is available on Forest2Market’s and Resources for the Future’s website: Executive Summary (8 pages) and full report (71 pages).
Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonprofit research institution in Washington, DC. Its mission is to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement. RFF is committed to being the most widely trusted source of research insights and policy solutions leading to a healthy environment and a thriving economy.
Unless otherwise stated, the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and may differ from those of other RFF experts, its officers, or its directors. RFF does not take positions on specific legislative proposals.