Growing demand from Asian markets helped Canadian and U.S. producers boost softwood lumber output by 13 per cent in 2010, according to an annual survey by the International Wood Markets Group.
Canada's West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. easily retained its position as the largest producer of softwood lumber in North America at 4.68 billion board feet, or 10 per cent of all output.
U.S.-based Weyerhaeuser finished second in North America, slightly ahead of the lumber output of Canada's Canfor Corp. , with 3.30 billion bf versus 3.24 billion bf, the survey said.
"The single most important event that occurred in the North American softwood lumber industry in 2010 was the surprisingly strong growth of lumber exports to Asia (mainly China and Japan)," the International Wood Markets Group said in a news release.
"This created the spark that lit the market at the beginning of 2010 and pushed lumber prices to a peak in April 2010 not seen since May-June 2006," the Wood Markets Group said.
The average annual price in 2010 was $255 (U.S.), an increase of 41 per cent, or $181, in 2009, the survey said.
In 2010, West Fraser, Canfor and Tolko were once again the top three Canadian lumber producers, the survey said, producing a total of 8.1 billion bf or 36.7 per cent of lumber output, versus 7.2 billion bf in 2009.
The survey said that Western Canada has benefited from exports to China over the past several years and noted that mills unable to take advantage of those markets will have to wait for the anticipated recovery in the U.S. housing market.
The top three U.S. companies in 2010 were Weyerhaeuser, Sierra-Pacific and West Fraser's U.S. division, producing 22.5 per cent of all U.S. lumber.