France: softwood market facing difficulties

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The French softwood market members are still waiting for its revival. Q1 2016 cannot be characterised as particularly brilliant, and French traders whose 2015 activity results were rather mediocre hope that in 2016 the French softwood market will, at least, remain flat. Some industry representative bet the situation will improve in the second half of 2016, while others reflect on possible growth of activity in the construction sector. However, the drop of oil (-70% since June 2014) and raw material (-45%) prices is likely to be more beneficial for the concrete, steel and the apartment building sectors than for the wood sector.   

«It is the solid wood sector that suffers most. The competition with the glulam and other types of composed wooden goods is very active», noted a sawmill representative. «To sell more, mills must accept the promotional offers that are required by the majors store chains from their suppliers».

As to the construction sector, since early 2015 the price decline has been slow but steady (-2,5% in spruce-fir grade 2 and -4% grade 3 over 2015). Over 12 last months the majority of sawmill owners have observed the beams price decrease by 5% on average.

The formwork, packing and pine pallets sector is not an exception, and the situation is not at all that splendid. «The market is very volatile, I've had a lot of work since the end of March, and I expect more orders», commented a local sawmill owner. Another industry representative reported that he was going to shift his sawmill from 39 down to 35 hours per work week because of order volume decline and price decrease. He is determined to act in accordance with the situation. 

As to the soft roundwood market, the price decline has become stable in the east of France. In the region of Jura mountains the standing timber prices resisted the longest, but now even this region faces the price decrease, say the results of the latest auctions held by ONF in Franche-Comté in April 2016 (look the table below). Over the last 6 months the fir prices have reduced by 10% on average, the same trends are observed on the spruce market. 

Fir prices decline in the east of France 

Prices in euros/m3, standing timber, under bark

ONF Auctions held in Franche-Comté

  15/04/15 26/10/15 13/04/16

Price difference

Over a year

Over 6 months

1 m3 58 53,25 46,75



1,5 m3 59,3 56 50


2 m3 60,2 58 52,25


2,5 m3 61 59,25 54


3 m3 61,5 60,5 55,4


3,5 m3 62 61,4 56,75



The share of the unsold wooden goods on the closure of auctions in Franche-Comté back in autumn 2014 was just 2%, then it came up to 13% in Octobre 2015 having soared up to 24% in April 2016 

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