Table 2

Generally, hardwood markets are down for all species and grades in 2022, in stark contrast from 2021.  Statewide averages for delivered log prices decreased by approximately 20.5% for all grades and species. Decreased pricing is tied to a cooling housing market (Table 2), business concern over the potential for a global economic recession, exacerbated by the Ukraine conflict and continued supply chain issues. 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 industries currently employ an aging workforce.


Delivered Log Summary

Hardwood log values decreased significantly in 2022. The downtrend manifested itself across all speciesFigure 5 in Kentucky. Data from the top five species shows this occurred across all grades, with only two minor exceptions for mid-grade black walnut and white oak logs (Figure 5).

White Oak high- and low-quality grade lumber log pricing decreased compared to 2021. In constrast, medium-quality logs increased an average of approximately 3%. This is in contrast to prices paid for white oak stave logs (Figure 6). Highand low-quality white oak lumber logs decreased from the record high prices experienced in 2021, but they are still  elevated considerably compared to pricing in 2020 and prior. 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- and low-quality lumber logs decreasing slightly in value, and medium-quality logs increasing by 2% from 2021 to 2022.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 8-17% across all log qualities from 2021 through the end of 2022.

Yellow-poplar values continue to track lower in 2022, decreasing between 27.7- 42.7% for highand low-quality logs respectively, for Kentucky’s most abundant tree species. 

Red oak domestic and export market demand continues to remain weak. Lackluster markets for flooring, cabinets, and millwork associated with housing starts and home remodeling due to the slowing housing market are partially to blame. The railroad tie market is still healthy, which has provided a consistent market for red oak logs. 


Railroad Tie Logs

Railroad tie logs remain an important timber product in Kentucky. The market for hardwood railroad tie Figure 7 logs has remained strong in terms of purchasing, although we have seen statewide price decreases in 2022 compared to 2021. Oak railway ties experienced a 29% decrease in year to year in 2022, while non-oak tie logs decreased by only 6% statewide during the last year. The statewide average for non-oak railroad tie logs is $423/MBF while oak tie log average $457/MBF. Normal maintenance and replacement of railway ties are ongoing, which is anticipated to keep pricing steady into 2023.


Stave Logs

Competition for stave logs continues to grow, increasing the value of high and medium quality white oak logs as well. To meet this growing demand several new yards have been established to receive stave logs. Markets are averaging over $1.69/bdft (Figure 5) with logs ranging $1 to $2.50 per board foot. Unlike 2020 and the first half of 2021, where prices were flat throughout the year, stave logs experienced a 21% increase in the second half of 2021. The market for white oak logs is expected to remain strong in 2022. As mentioned previously, intense competition for high quality white oak logs reduced stave log inventories for many facilities, causing price increases. Statewide stave logs are averaging over $1.40/bdft (Figure 5). The market for white oak logs is expected to remain strong in 2022 indicating continued opportunities for landowners and loggers. 

Figure 6