Experts say timber prices drop due to Katrina-damaged trees

Associated Press

STARKVILLE – Mississippi's timber harvest value is down 9.6 percent this year because the market is flooded with trees that were damaged during Hurricane Katrina, experts said Thursday.

Marc Measells, a research associate with Mississippi State University's Department of Forestry, puts the state's timber harvest value at $1.3 billion for 2006. That's down from $1.45 billion last year.

The estimate is based on timber severance tax collections and timber prices through October.

Measells said the findings are striking, given that from 2004 to 2005 the value had increased nearly 16 percent. Forestry is Mississippi's second largest commodity just behind poultry, which has an estimated value of almost $2 billion, he said.

Average prices for pine sawtimber dropped by 6.3 percent through October, Measells said.

Mixed hardwood sawtimber declined by almost 10 percent this year, while oak sawtimber dropped by nearly 14 percent. Pine pulpwood prices dipped more than 9 percent and hardwood pulpwood prices fell 18.6 percent for the year.

Measells said Hurricane Katrina disrupted lumber production and timber markets, and when the harvest resumed, landowners quickly sold off damaged trees, flooding the market.