Redwood markets in California
Janet Webb, New Zealand Tree Grower February 2007
The market for redwood timber has continued to change over the last several years as available supply and consumer demand shift. With ever increasing regulatory constraints being placed on timber harvesting throughout California, the production of redwood timber has dropped to approximately half of what it was less than 10 years ago. This has forced changes in availability, pricing and demand. With less large old growth timber available for harvest, there has been a dramatic reduction in the quantity of clear grade timber available. Due to market proximity and consumer familiarity, redwood has become predominantly a California product and less redwood is sold in other regions of the United States or abroad.
Most redwood is used for its outdoor durability or for its attractive appearance. The cinnamon coloured heartwood is rot resistant, lending itself well to outdoor uses such as residential decking and fencing as well as for garden and farm structures. Redwood is very stable and easily milled, making it attractive for exterior house siding or interior trim, moulding and shelving. As redwood availability has decreased, cedar, chemically treated white woods and plastic composite products are increasingly used instead. Changes in architectural styles and building applications have also driven change in the market place.
This year there has been a decline in the construction of houses in California as well as the rest of the United States. Sales for redwood have been sluggish since summer, but they have not been nearly as badly affected as other species such as Douglas fir. Prices, particularly for the lower quality sap grade lumber, have dropped by 10 to 20 percent and mills are finding it difficult to move all of their production. Some sawmills are curtailing production and storing timber in hopes of a stronger market in the spring. This recent trend is in marked contrast to the pattern over the past several years that has seen a steady increase in price for all products.
Janet McCrary Webb works for Big Creek Lumber Co, Davenport, California