France: new auction labeling system affecting the oak prices?

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Oak prices are still growing in the beginning of 2016

French oak sawmill owners hope for the best and preferably faster, obviously. Even though they doubted that the so-called labeled auctions (i.e. under the labels of quality, as in FSC etc.) would have any immediate impact on the price of logs, they were hoping for the oak prices to stabilize. However, this does not seem to be the case judging by the results of the most recent auctions.

The loggers' discontent had disrupted the first ONF (Office national des forêts) auction last September. France's wood merchants and traders felt directly threatened by the new system of the labeled oak auctions which FNB (Fédération nationale du bois) had managed to get the approval for from the French Ministry of Agriculture.

Unprocessed oak logs export from France became large scale. According to the sawmill owners, the phenomenon of the French raw material outflow, mostly to China, contributed to maintaining an artificially high level of oak prices as opposed to the reality of the oak sawnwood market. 

The first ONF auction in Beaune inaugurating the new labeling system and opening a 2015/2016 season of public timber sales was canceled due to being boycotted by the French loggers. The results of the second edition, which was normally held on September 28, 2015 showed that nothing had really changed and that the oak prices were clearly growing (see Table 1).

"What is not surprising is that we declared a buyer after the auction because auctions in Beaune are essentially the ones having a catalog of high-end products which timber merchants struggle to position themselves in. "During the following auctions taking place last autumn and early winter – with or without active presence of loggers – there were not observed any clear signs of oak prices decreasing. 

"I don't see any price difference having appeared since the introduction of the labeled autions", commented René Genet from Haute-Saône, at the end of the auctions in Courlaoux in December 2015. His colleague from Jura, Olivier Vuitton, has a similar opinion. "Compared to spring 2015 and fall 2014 and taking into consideration goods of the equal quality, our purchase prices are rising." Reportedly, year-on-year the price increase came up to 5% for logs with the volume 2 m3 and more (see Table 2).

Many sawyers show no particular surprise regarding the current situation with the sawn timber market being very dynamic in all oak assortments. Experts also report that a number of logging companies have adapted to the new regulations within the labeled autions framework, pledging to market or process purchased oaks in Europe. 

"I think it is still too early for making any conclusion on whether the labeled auctions have had an effect on the oak sale prices," said Henri Mutelet. "Usually sawmill supply problems appear in late winter," adds Henri Mutelet. Besides the availability of raw wood in the short term, there are other risk factors that will have significant impact on the price of oak logs such as the level of Chinese demand in the upcoming months.

Table 1:


In euros/m3, standing timber

  09/2007 09/2013   09/2014 09/2015  Changes over a year

1,5 m3

84 72 95 100 +5,3%

2 m3

178 106 127 146 +15%

2,5 m3

178 131,5 149 182 +22,1%
3 m3 212 152 170 209 +22,9%
3,5 m3 235 168,5 187 234 +25,1%
4 m3 - 184 200 257 +28,5%

Source : Robert Wood with the refernce to the public auctions in Beaune


Tableau 2:


In euros/m3, standing timber

  12/2013 12/2014  12/2015 Changes over a year

1 m3

78 87 80 -8,8%

1,5 m3

115 127 128 +1%

2 m3

140 156 162 +3,8%
2,5 m3 m3 159 178 188 +5,6%

3 m3

177 196 209 +6,6%

Source : Robert Wood with the refernce to the public auctions in Courlaoux