Stoltze to curtail production as lumber market softens

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Under a series of bright lights, graders mark lumber before it is packaged for sale at Stoltze Land and Lumber Co. in this file photo.

F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Co. will cut back on its shifts at its mill in Columbia Falls, the company confirmed this week.

The mill will go from an 80-hour production cycle to a 50-hour production cycle, Paul McKenzie, lands and resource manager for Stoltze said Tuesday. The curtailment starts next week.

“It’s purely market driven,” McKenzie said. “We had a good market a year ago.”

But it was a tough winter and demand for lumber across the country is down, he noted.

As an example, he said the composite price for a 1,000 board feet of fir and larch is down $200 from a year ago, which is a 50 percent drop.

He said supply has actually been good. The company worked on two salvage sales over the winter on the Kootenai National Forest and a Good Neighbor Authority sale, where the state assists the federal government in administering a sale, is coming up for bid soon on the Flathead National Forest.

Housing starts across the country in April were about 1.235 million, down about 5 percent from the previous year, according to federal government statistics.

McKenzie said he hopes the curtailment is temporary. McKenzie wasn’t sure how many positions would have to be cut.

Stoltze isn’t alone in its curtailment, Interfor Corp. which runs huge mills in British Columbia, also announced curtailments late last month.

Its curtailment is expected to reduce production in interior British Columbia by approximately 20 million board feet for the month of June. Interfor has three sawmills in the British Columbia interior, with total annual capacity of approximately 750 million board feet. To put that perspective, the annual yield off the Flathead National Forest is about 30 million board feet a year.

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