France: oak prices soar in early 2017

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How far up can oak price go?

Since 2013, oak prices have been climbing in France. All forest and woodworking industry professionals are wondering how far up oak prices can go. "Two generations of sawyers haven't seen such a frenzy on the market, it's unheard of, " commented an industry representative.

In fact, today all the oak products get sold out and the demand does not weaken. Beams, wooden structures, squared edged timber for parquet, selected boards and prepared timber for furniture, boule for fine joinery, barrel staves ... What goods don't find their buyer? Oak is the "trendy" species for the decoration and high end goods. As for the rest, all its secondary qualities find market potential in multiple domains. 

Oak has become the benchmark in Europe, as well as in the United States and China. The strong dollar and the recovery of real estate sector in the US, strong Asian demand (after a slight decline in 2016), brilliant performance of the European market ... All these factors contribute to the success of a species whose reputation is nothing new.

More than ever, its rarity defines its price. In 1993, oak logging volumes in France came up to 2.7 million m3 (1). Twenty years later, these figures reached only 2.1 million m3 (-22%). Over the same period, national sawnwood production reduced in a more significant manner (-33%). Exports of roundwood and the growing share of staves without doubt explain why sawnwood market dynamic is shifting more rapidly than that of logs.

In these conditions, how may one be surprised that the French oak prices have soared in recent years? Back in 2012, the logs of 2 m3 cost around 115 euros / m3, while today they are worth 185 euros / m3 (2). In 5 years, and in a context of very low inflation, the increase reached about 60%.

And by the end of the first quarter of 2017, it seems, nothing can stop the French oak at spring forest auctions. In the east and at public auctions (see table below), the annual price increase is around 20%. Compared to the autumn, prices are still increasing by an average of 5%. Who can say how far the oak will go?

(1) sources Armef-Afocel, Ctba

(2) at auctions in Jura for the same quality


Harvested log price in euros/m3, roadside

ONF auctions (Jura)

                 Price change
  12/2015 03/2016   12/2016 03/2017 over 4 months over 12 months
1 m3 79 98 111 116 +4,5% +18,4%
1,5 m3 127 129 150    158   +5,3%       +22,5%
2 m3 160 151 177,5 187 +5,3% +23,8%
2,5 m3 187,5 168 199 210 +5,5% +25%
3 m3 209 181 217 229 +5,5% +26,5%
3,5 m3 227  -  231,5 244,5   +5,6%  - 

Source : Robert Wood


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