The wood costs for pulp and lumber manufacturers in the two largest producing countries in Latin America, Brazil and Chile, have fallen during much of 2012 and 2013, and were in the 2Q/13 at the lowest levels in over two years, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly (www.woodprices.com). The two countries currently have some of the lowest wood raw-material costs in the world, and since these costs account for 55-65% of the production costs when manufacturing pulp and lumber, it makes the industry quite competitive in the export market.
In Brazil, prices for both sawlogs and pulplogs have come down substantially in US dollar terms the past few years. The average pine sawlog price is currently over 20% below the record high levels reached in 2011. This sharp price decline is more a reflection of a weakening Brazilian Real than any dramatic price changes in the local currency. The current sawlog costs, which were about 30% below the global sawlog index GSPI, makes Brazilian sawmills very competitive. Although Brazil is a minor player in the global lumber export market, the country has expanded sales to the US, which is by far the largest consumer of Brazilian softwood lumber, this year, with shipments in the 3Q/13 reaching their highest levels in over two years.
Prices for pulpwood in Brazil have followed a similar trend to those of sawlogs, with sharp declines in US dollar terms but only modest declines in the Brazilian Real the past year. Current pulplog price levels have not been seen in almost five years, and the Brazilian pulp industry has become much more competitive compared to a few years ago. Prices for pine sawlogs in Chile have been surprisingly stable in 2012 and 2013 despite higher log demand from sawmills the past year both because of a stronger domestic market and increased exports. Chile is about the tenth largest exporter of softwood lumber in the world and shipments to China, Japan and the US were all up the first half of 2013 as compared to the same period in 2012.
Pulplog prices in Chile have also fallen, with the 2Q/13 prices being about eight percent lower than in the 2Q/12. The average cost for Eucalyptus fiber in Chile is currently the lowest in all countries tracked by the WRQ, making the country’s pulp mills some of the world’s lowest cost producers of hardwood market pulp.