Wednesday, 11 October 2017 13:42

White Ash is Getting Harder to Find

It seems the market demand for white ash has not dwindled.  From a sawmill's perspective, what has seemed to dwindle is the amount of hardwood ash logs available to saw!

44 Uppers Ash Smyrna Parallel Edge sideFor years, loggers have been aggressively harvesting ash trees to minimize land owner’s potential losses from the emerald ash borer. The timing of this has varied by region and still does today.  Just last week we heard that the U.S. Department of Agriculture added the State of South Carolina to the quarantine list.

In these recent years, as land owners and loggers have tried to stay ahead of the ash borer, sawmills adjusted to cut as much as they could. For the most part, the increased amount of ash lumber produced was consumed in the market relatively easily. Especially in China where it went into an increased production of furniture, flooring, cabinets and specialty items.

However, lately it seems some sawmills have not been able to purchase as many ash logs as before.  With less ash in the woods, and an increase in ash logs being prepped for export, the amount of ash lumber being produced seems to be less. As a matter of fact, a recent industry report indicates that ash lumber is the only species where export sales have decreased.

Fortunately, we have been able to sustain our historic levels of ash production, but it has not been easy.  Our goal of course is to continue as long as possible. However, that has not prevented us from starting to think about what species of lumber will fill the void of production once the ash trees are no longer available to be sawn.  You wonder what type of trees loggers will harvest instead of ash. You think about what species will manufacturers purchase to produce their products if ash is not available or reaches a price point that is not cost effective.  You wonder what other hardwood lumber products distributors will inventory for their customers and how we can prepare them to consider alternatives.

Answers to those questions will not come any time soon.  In the meantime, white ash continues to be a hardwood lumber product in demand and we expect that to continue. Especially with the recent NHLA Kiln Drying Certification program that now covers ash which should re-open some European markets to import ash more easily as they did before the EAB was in play.

Ash inventories in our yards are moving well in most thicknesses and grades. If we are short on a particular product we can also usually find it for our customers from one of our many trusted partner mills.  If you are looking for a consistent, reliable supply of ash please let us know.  We should be able to help for some time to come!

Tony Cimorelli
Baillie Lumber
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