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WWPA addresses housing slump

The historic downturn in lumber demand will likely extend another year until the country’s financial system and housing market can be repaired, according to a new lumber supply-and-demand forecast from Western Wood Products Association.

According to the lumber trade association, lumber demand is expected to drop 15 percent to 44.3 billion bf this year and then fall another 3 percent to 43 billion bf in 2009. In just three years, demand for lumber has plummeted by some 20 billion bf — more than what Western mills produced in all of 2005.

WWPA represents softwood lumber manufacturers in 12 Western states and Alaska. The association’s forecast estimates housing starts will reach 993,000 in 2008 and decline to 933,000 next year. The decline of more than 50 percent in housing starts from 2005 has been a huge blow to lumber mills. The volume of lumber used in new home construction is expected to total 11.8 billion bf in 2008 — less than half of the 23.3 billion bf used just two years earlier.

Production in the West should total almost 14 billion bf this year, slipping to 13.6 billion bf in 2009. That would be the lowest annual volume since 1982. Since 2005, output at Western mills has declined 28 percent, or more than 5 billion bf.

The WWPA forecast calls for housing markets and lumber demand to grow in 2010, but cautions that any recovery will be slow.

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