Sometimes, there are as many ways to explain numbers as there are people to explain them. When it comes to the lumber market, some rely on the futures market, others use housing start figures and still others use gross domestic product and employment numbers.
We at Forest2Market are in the business of capturing actual industry statistical data. For the past seven years, for instance, Forest2Market has collected pine (SYP) log purchases by sawmills in the South directly from scale tickets. This data gives us a unique perspective on the market.
Using both publicly available information on sawmill capacity and Forest2Market data on SYP log purchases, our calculations show that the average operating rate for sawmills in 2012 was 80.1 percent, with a total production volume of 14.6 billion board feet. Given the 80.1 percent operating rate, the total potential capacity in the market was 18.2 billion board feet in 2012. In effect, an additional 3.6 billion board feet could have been produced.