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Q4 2023 Forisk Wood Fiber Review: Chip Prices Continue to Fall as Demand Wanes in the Pacific Northwest

This blog includes data from the Forisk Wood Fiber Review, a quarterly publication tracking North America’s major wood fiber markets. For more information, please visit www.forisk.com.

There are plenty of residual chips available in the northwest US, with consuming mills reporting very full woodyards. Ironically, a little over a year ago, most would have loved this “problem.” What a difference a year makes. Going into Q4 2022 demand was high, as were prices. Residual chip prices decreased between 23% and 47% across the Pacific Northwest over the last year.

Now, there are stories of residual chips being sold as biomass or being left on the ground for potential future transport.  Most consumers have slowed (or stopped) purchases of the typically more expensive whole log chips. Pulplogs lost the demand they held a year ago. “You couldn’t find a stick to save your life a year ago. Now, pulplogs are being left in the woods because there are no markets.” one procurement manager remarked.

Packaging Corporation of America in Wallula recently restarted one machine after a 6-month curtailment, but several curtailments and closures in Washington have affected demand. WestRock Tacoma permanently closed in September, and Cosmo Specialty Papers in Cosmopolis has remained closed for over a year. The possibility of a Cosmo startup has been in the news and on people’s minds; the end of Q1 2024 has been suggested.

As we look to 2024, markets will remain difficult with some speculation of little improvement until at least the second or third quarter.


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