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What lies ahead for timber and lumber? 10th annual conference seeks answers


March 3, 2020
By Maria Church
Maria Church
Presenters at the 2019 Global Softwood Log & Lumber Conference in Vancouver. Photo supplied.

With growing concerns of a potential global pandemic affecting export markets, massive log salvage programs in central Europe from beetle-killed forests, and the potential of oversupply in the North American markets, there’s a lot to discuss about what lies ahead for timber and lumber in 2020 and beyond.

Speakers at the upcoming Global Softwood Log & Lumber Conference in Vancouver in June will be tackling those questions and more, allowing industry players to better plan their market and business strategy and to better assess developments in key global markets and supplying regions.

The conference, organized by FEA Canada and now in its 10th year, is taking place June 17-18 at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. Over the two-day conference, more than 25 speakers and panelists will provide insights and outlooks for what lies ahead for North America and international regions for timber and lumber.

FEA Canada’s managing director Russ Taylor says this year’s program has a heavy focus on the supply side.

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“China is going to be a huge question at this conference following the impacts of  the coronavirus. By June it may be recovered, but we will be looking back to see what business will be permanently lost or can be salvaged in China as well as other markets,” he says.

Day 1 of the conference narrows in on international markets, including Europe, Russia, China, Japan, New Zealand and Chile. Day 2 focusses on the North American timber and lumber market.

Key topics include:

  • Impacts of the Central European spruce bark beetle, drought and wind-storms that have created a massive log salvage program, flooding China with logs and providing low cost logs to European sawmills.
  • Impacts of the coronavirus and outlook for demand in China for logs and lumber.
  • Outlook for lumber demand, production and prices in the U.S. for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.

“Looking at North America, U.S. housing starts are coming back quite strongly. And repair and remodelling seems to be recovering as well, which is more critical than housing starts. That’s the largest consumption sector right now, larger than housing. That’s why we’re seeing the demand picking up and we’re getting stronger prices,” Taylor says. “But there’s still oversupply concerns.”

The conference will again feature two deep dives on special topics that introduce trends in the industry that could impact lumber production and demand.

The first dive is on engineered wood and mass timber, as well as off-site construction. “It shows people where things are going and why suppliers can’t make the kind of lumber they have been making in the past. They need the highest quality, no warps, twists or splits – consistent every piece. That’s the challenge for our industry,” Taylor says.

The second deep dive will be on North America distribution trends, which will include different perspectives from commodity, specialties and pro dealer speakers.

The conference will typically see around 250 people from 20 countries. About 20 per cent of the delegates are from other countries, Taylor says.

Find the conference program and register at: www.getfea.com/conference/global-softwood-log-lumber-conference

RELATED: 2020 global lumber markets outlook