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Lumber demand sees steep downturn

Wed., Oct. 22, 2008

A historic downturn in lumber demand likely will extend at least a year, according to a forecast from the Western Wood Products Association.

U.S. lumber demand is expected to drop 15 percent to 44.3 billion board feet this year, then fall 3 percent to 43 billion board feet in 2009, the trade association said.

In just three years, demand for lumber has plummeted by about 20 billion board feet – more than Western sawmills’ total output in 2005.

Housing starts are forecast to reach just 993,000 in 2008 and decline to 933,000 next year. New housing typically accounts for more than 40 percent of annual lumber demand. The downturn has led to mill closures and temporary shutdowns.

Western lumber production should total nearly 14 billion board feet this year, slipping to 13.6 billion board feet in 2009. That would be the lowest annual volume since 1982, the trade group said.

The forecast said housing starts and lumber demand will grow in 2010, but cautioned that recovery will be slow.


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