Because of a substantial drop in the cherry export market, domestic dealers report an improvement in the quality of cherry available and also a drop in price. For many retail dealers, the cost of cherry has dropped about $1/bf within the last year which, combined with the increased quality, has maintained sales at a reasonable level during a difficult time for wood markets. But even for some veteran wood dealers, it is currently a confusing business.
"For everything, prices have come down. Nothing is what it was," says Jerry Anton of O'Shea Lumber, a wholesaler in Glen Rock, Pa. "I used to know something about the lumber business, I'm not sure I do anymore - just with pricing and whatnot, it's hard to know. The markets have been dropping, but I think they are starting to stabilize. Demand has been down. As far as I can see, everybody has cut back. The cherry and the maples are still going OK - poplar and things like that - but again, it is hard to judge what is happening."
"Many of the logs that were getting exported are getting sawn [in this country] so the quality of the lumber getting produced now is probably better than it has been in possibly a decade," says Lou Irion or Irion Lumber in Wellsboro, Pa. "The problem for the customer in the domestic market was that people were so tired of getting junk. They said 'If this is cherry, we don't want it,' and that was a consequence of a really strong export market and the fact that just about everything nice was going overseas. So the quality is way, way up, but it's going to take awhile for customers to realize that the quality is back to where it should have been."
Retail prices for 100 bf of kiln-dried, 4/4 FAS black cherry, surfaced on two sides, ranged from $5.10 to $6/bf in the Northeast; $5.45 to $6/bf in the Southeast; $5.20 to $6.10/bf in the Midwest; and $6.40 to $7/bf in the West.