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Thomas Poe Cooper Building 730 Rose Street Lexington, KY 40546-0073

Delivered Timber Prices

Delivered Timber Prices

Delivered Timber Prices

Table 2

Hardwood markets recovered marginally for high quality logs of all species except maple in 2023; however,
pricing is nowhere near the records set in 2021. Statewide averages for delivered log prices decreased by 16.6% from the 2nd half of 2022 to the end of 2023, when combining all grades and species (Table 2). Log
and lumber pricing and demand are tied to numerous factors including: cooling housing starts, rising interest
rates, business concern over the potential for a global economic recession, rising inflation, ongoing global
conflict, and continued supply chain issues. From a broad perspective the S&P forecast is anticipating
economic growth to decrease from 2.4% to 1.5%. Along with these broader market concerns, short falls
in labor recruitment and retention continue. The latter issue is particularly troubling given that logging and
primary wood manufacturing industries currently employ an aging workforce—the average age of loggers
in Kentucky is 57.

Delivered Log Summary


Delivered Log Summary:
With the exception of maple, high-quality hardwood log values increased slightly in 2023. The downtrend
for medium and low-quality logs was consistent across all species in Kentucky. Data from the top six species
shows this decrease with the exception of marginal increases for medium-quality red oak logs (Table 2).

White oak high-quality grade lumber log pricing increased compared to 2022. In contrast, medium- and
low-quality logs decreased an average of approximately 31.6% and 18.4% respectively. While high-quality
lumber log prices are increasing they remain lower than prices paid for white oak stave logs (Figure 6).
High-quality white oak lumber logs have not returned to the record high prices experienced in 2021, but
are still elevated considerably compared to pricing in 2020 and prior (Figure 5). The demand of white oak
for many uses in products including veneer, stave, and grade lumber will keep competition and pricing strong
for this species.

Black walnut followed a similar trend as white oak, with high-quality lumber logs increasing
slightly in value, and low and medium-quality logs decreasing by 35% from 2022 to 2023. Black walnut is
our most valuable species and average prices are still elevated compared to prices paid in 2020 and prior.

Hard maple experienced reductions in pricing ranging from 20-46% across all log qualities from 2022 through the end of 2023.

Yellow-poplar values for high-quality logs marginally increased. Medium and low-quality logs continue to track lower in 2023, decreasing between 9.5-19.7% respectively, for Kentucky’s most abundant tree species.

Red oak domestic and export market demand is slowly improving from record lows in 2022. Lackluster markets for flooring, cabinets, and millwork associated with housing starts and home remodeling due to the slowing housing market are partially to blame. Consumer preferences for species other than red oak and alternative materials also contribute to weakened lumber demand. The railroad tie market is partly cloudy, but still provided a consistent market for red oak logs at this time.

Stave Logs

Figure 6

Strong competition for stave logs continues in response to the ever-increasing demand driven by the “bourbon boom.” New log yards, stave drying yards, and equipment and technology upgrades to increase  production of barrels have all been important investments to help meet the growing demand for bourbon. Daily barrel production ranges from 8-12,000 statewide, amongst all cooperages combined. Markets are averaging $2.72 per board foot (Figure 6) statewide with logs ranging from $1 to $3 /bdft. Unlike most other commodities, stave logs experienced a 42.3% increase throughout 2023. The market for stave logs is expected to remain strong in 2024 due to intense competition for high-quality white oak logs for a variety of products and uses. Despite white oak growing stock concerns (see White Oak Initiative for more information), the strong white oak market continues to be an opportunity for both loggers and landowners.

Railroad tie

Railroad Tie Logs

Railroad tie logs remain an important timber product in Kentucky. The market for hardwood railroad tie logs has softened in terms of pricing and purchasing (Figure 7). Predictions from the tie demand forecast show a decrease in tie purchases of 2% for 2024. We have seen statewide price decreases in 2023 compared to 2022. Oak railway ties experienced a 17.9% decrease in 2023, while non-oak tie logs decreased by 15.4% statewide during the last year. The statewide average for non-oak railroad tie logs is $358/MBF while oak tie log average $375/MBF. Air drying yards are at full capacity, but maintenance and replacement of railway ties are ongoing, which should provide some stability into 2024.

Figure 7

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Thomas Poe Cooper Building 730 Rose Street Lexington, KY 40546-0073