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05/25/2021

U.S. sawmill capacity on the rise

The majority of softwood lumber growth took place in the South.
a close up of a brick wall

Citing a report from Forisk Consulting, the American Wood Council said that North American softwood sawmill capacity increased by 1.4 billion board feet in the last year.

Most of that increased capacity – 1.1. billion board feet – was from manufacturing in the U.S. South. The council also said that the entire wood products manufacturing sector continues to produce at the highest levels since the Great Recession.

Many wood products companies have announced significant investments to expand the capacity of existing mills, however, lead times to get the new equipment remains long.

In some cases, machinery is back-ordered up to 24 months – potentially extending the usual 12 to 24 months it would take to complete these types of projects. Manufacturing expansion projects are a long-term solution that will support increased capacity, but not until 2022 at best.

Despite the already high levels of production, and investments from manufacturers to upgrade and expand mill capacity, the unprecedented demand still exceeds the current supply, the council said while noting that the most immediate opportunity to address constraints to lumber supply is to focus on transportation and workforce limitations. 

More details and a statement from Forisk are available here.