May 2024 - NZ market update

Friday 10 May 2024

Opinion Piece: Marcus Musson, Director, Forest360

May’s a funny month, you’re hanging onto the autumn weather and good times that were had over summer, knowing fully well that winter is around the corner, and it’s going to get cold and ugly. This is usually the case for our industry as log prices generally start heading south in late autumn and rain is not our friend. However, winter came early in terms of southward heading log prices, with a significant drop in April that extended into May with mainly flat pricing at the NZ$106/JAS level for A grade. Thankfully the weather has played ball with reasonably dry conditions to date, but this is cold comfort if your logging gear is parked in the paddock.

There were some hopes that May would see a price increase of substance but, with both the foreign exchange rate and the shipping costs having Julie Anne Genter levels of volatility during April and early May, our hopes have been dashed. There is some good news simmering away in the background as Chinese on port inventories stabilise and demand increases into the 72km3 per day range. Supply from NZ has dropped significantly following the poor April prices and a quickly slowing CNI salvage volume. This will likely not have an impact on the CFR price (sales price in China) in the short term until inventory gets to an uncomfortably low position.

The Chinese economy grew at a faster rate than predicted in Q1 with GDP at 5.3% against a Reuters poll of analysts that expected 4.6%, however it looks like the growth was primarily front loaded with March data weakening. Property remains the red-haired stepchild with Reuters reporting new house prices falling faster in March than any time in the previous eight years. Sales plummeted 23.7% in March compared to 20.5% for the previous two months so it’s clear that any significant rebound in construction is still a pipe dream.

A recent Chinese trade delegation to NZ was wowed at our wooden commercial construction, and there was a definite interest in understanding how NZ’s construction techniques and technology could be commercialised in China. It was clear that the ageing Chinese population is reasonably cashed up and not necessarily interested in living in a 500-story concrete and steel apartment block. If we could help develop this market segment it may provide significant demand for NZ radiata by placing more wood into a smaller but differentiated construction sector. For perspective, the wood usage per capita in China is less than 0.4m3, compared to India at 1.61m3, and a global average of 0.55m3. This indicates that there is potential of an additional demand of 210 million cubic metres if China reaches the global average.

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Source: Forest360

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