France: Lower prices for maritime pine confirmed by latest auctions

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RW/Fordaq
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 A lasting price drop for maritime pine in France?

 

The first signs of falling maritime pine prices that appeared in the southwest of France at the end of 2019 were consolidated in the first half of the year. And the results of recent auctions which have just taken place this autumn in the Landes forests, clearly indicate that the decrease in prices is continuing.

"We are indeed seeing that the slight drop seen at the start of the second half of last year has accelerated markedly this summer," notes Alexandre Macé, a forestry operator from the Gironde specializing in maritime pine. 

In fact, the 1 m3 logs which were at 50 euros / m3 under bark in the first half of 2019 are traded on average today at 43 euros / m3 in the Landes de Gascogne (see table below).

Since May 2019 and to date, the average depreciation of maritime pine has been around 15%. In the current year, logs of 2 m3, which were still starting at 48 euros / m3 at the beginning of the spring, are now only worth 44 euros / m3, ie a decline of more than 8% over 6 months. However, this downward trend should be put into perspective over time because a few years ago, the value of maritime pine was much lower. 

On the supply / demand side, the situation is also changing. While more than ¾ of the content of sellers' catalogs normally elapsed two years ago, unsold products now reach 50% of the volumes marketed. The current contraction in prices is therefore logically accompanied by lower demand from buyers.

The improvement in maritime pine prices over 2016-2018 corresponded to a scissor effect of 2 factors: growth in sawnwood demand in connection with good construction activity and, at the same time, collapse of the wood resource available following the storms of 1999 and especially 2009.

Paul Lesbats, manager of one of the largest sawmills in the Landes (120,000 m3 of sawnwood, turnover € 27 million), explains that the explosion in prices was not sustainable. "The restructuring which was already underway in our sector has accelerated with the inflation on the prices of logs, the high price of which has become incompatible with their transformation into sawnwood."

Today the landscape is reversed: influx of raw material at low cost due to bark beetles and overcrowding of stocks in certain market segments whose activity is declining in relation to Covid-19 or not. In addition, the restructurings mentioned by Paul Lebats (closure of factories, reduction in capacity, lack of investment since 2015, etc.) have resulted in relatively less pressure on purchases due to the reduction in competition.

This phenomenon was further accentuated in 2020 with the disappearance of significant players. Namely in the Landes region: the MDF factory of Finsa in Morcenx, the sawmill of the Gascogne group in Castets, La Montoise du Bois in Mont-de-Marsan and, in Gironde, the Courbin sawmill. The aggregate supply of these four units represented almost 600,000 m3 / year, or the equivalent of 12% of the current harvest in the Gascon massif (2).

These ongoing rebalances are taking place in the midst of the bark beetle crisis. However, this does not seem to have a direct impact on construction products, which even benefit from the general fall in softwood prices (1). 

If we add to the bark beetles the dysfunctions of all kinds resulting from the Covid-19, we will better understand why a downward trend is currently taking hold in the prices of maritime pine in the Landes. For professionals in the sector in the southwest, the question today is whether or not it is sustainable.


(1) with the notorious exception of Douglas, which has seen its prices increase very significantly over the past 2 years

(2) in Gironde and Landes according to the 2017 Agreste Nouvelle Aquitaine branch survey

           CONTINUED DECLINE IN MARITIME PINE PRICES IN THE LANDES

            euros / m3 under bark

     ONF public sales     

 

Q2 2019

Q4 2019

Q4 2020

Evolution in%

Q2 2019-Q4 2020

Evolution in%

Q4 2019-Q4 2020

0,5 m3

42

37.5

34.5

-17.8

-8

0,75 m3

47

43

39

-17

-9.3

1 m2

50

46.5

43

-14

-7.5

1,25 m3

52.5

49

45

-14.3

-8, 1

1,5 m3

52.5

51

46

-12.4

-9.8

1,75 m3

52.5

51.5

45.5

-13.3

-11.7

2 m3

50

50.5

44

-12

-12.9

Source: Robert Wood, according to ONF and CRPF Nouvelle Aquitaine statistics

 

 

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