Bob Daniels, forestry specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said the prominent opinion is that as populations and urban areas continue to grow in the southeastern United States, Mississippi will be situated ideally for supplying wood products.
"The pine lumber market had been under pressure from Canadian-subsidized imports until an additional duty went into effect last summer," Daniels said. "Harvest volume of timber in Mississippi is up about 4 percent through July as gauged by severance tax collections. Last year, harvest volume was down about 12 percent."
Daniels said sawtimber is the brightest spot in the timber market picture, while the pulpwood situation remains sluggish industrywide.
"Good quality stands of sawtimber remain in demand, and fall is a good time for landowners to consider a timber sale," Daniels said. "Prices have come off the peak levels of the 1990s, but they are still good and will continue to be favorable."
Daniels said pine sawtimber is running between $380 and $400 per thousand board feet, compared to an average of $440 in 1999. Hardwoods are lagging about 13 percent below their peak levels from 1998. Red oak sawtimber is near $300 per thousand board feet, and better quality can go higher. Mixed hardwood is running around $185.
"The pulp and paper industry has been in recession for about two years as worldwide demand has fallen off. The response has been to cut back on production capacity," Daniels said. "The lowest pulpwood prices have been for first thinnings from pine plantations. Sometimes it has been hard for landowners to find someone willing to do the work."
Daniels said most landowners can delay thinning their trees for a few years if necessary.
"The bottom line is to thin when you can and don't worry too much about the price. The return on the investment comes at the end (30 to 35 years after planting)," Daniels said.
Pine pulpwood is selling between $13 and $18 per cord, or $5 to $7 per ton. Hardwood pulpwood prices are $14 per cord, or $3.50 to $4.50 per ton.
"About a decade ago, pulpwood was 33 percent of Mississippi's timber harvest value. Now it's in the range of 20 percent," Daniels said. "By far, sawlogs dominate Mississippi's timber market."