Wood raw-material costs were down for pulp manufacturers in most regions around the world in the 3Q 2019 as compared to both the previous quarter and the 3Q 2018.
Prices for softwood pulplogs and wood chips were down between 1-15% q-o-q, depending on region, with the biggest price reductions occurring in Germany, France, Sweden and the US Northwest. The only region with higher prices in the 3Q 2019 was Western Canada, where pulplog prices increased by 10% q-o-q, as Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ) reported.
The Softwood Fiber Price Index (SFPI) fell by 2.2% q-o-q to $89.26/odmt in the 3Q 2019, the lowest level in two years, and slightly below its five-year average.
In Germany, softwood pulplog prices have experienced a dramatic decline the past year because of an oversupply of low-grade logs from harvests of insect and storm damaged forests. The average price for contracted logs was at the lowest point since the WRQ started tracking prices in 1988. Some spot prices were as low as $10-15/m3 in regions where landowners were desperate to move damaged trees from their lands. With the sharp decline in softwood pulplogs prices in Germany, the country currently has some of the world lowest pulplog prices.
The Hardwood Fiber Price Index (HFPI) has been fairly stable at around $90/odmt the past year. In the 3Q 2019, the HFPI fell slightly from the previous quarter but was about one percent higher than in the 3Q 2018. There were very small price changes q-o-q for hardwood fiber in the 15 regions tracked by the WRQ.
Of the major hardwood consuming regions in the world, pulpmills in Russia (+13%), China (+8%), US South (+8%), Germany (-10%) and Indonesia (-8%) have seen the biggest changes in wood fiber costs the past year. With uncertainty surrounding when market pulp prices will rebound, how fast the imbalance in fiber demand and supply in Europe will be corrected, and when the trade negotiations between the US and China will be settled, forecasting of wood fiber prices will remain challenging in 2020.