Production of North American structural panels was just 5.378 billion ft2 in 1Q/09, a 33% drop from the same quarter last year (8.077 billion ft2), according to APA-The Engineered Wood Association.

The Tacoma, Washington-based trade association said housing starts in 1Q this year were expected to be about one half of the level in 1Q/08, when the housing recession was already in full bloom.

Production of OSB dropped 41% to 2.873 billion ft2 in Q1, compared with 4.853 billion ft2 in the same quarter of 2008. The rate of decline, 41%, was the same in both the US – from 3.436 to 2.023 billion ft2; and Canada – from 1.417 to 850 million ft2.

Softwood plywood production was 2.505 billion ft2 in 1Q, of which Canada accounted for 16% and the US 84%. Production in both countries was 22% lower than in the first quarter of last year, but the declines were less sharp than those in OSB production as more plywood is used in remodeling, industrial and non-residential construction than new home construction, APA noted.

In Canada, softwood plywood production was 530 million ft2 in 1Q/08 and 413 million ft2 in 1Q/09, 2009; while in the US production dropped from 2.694 billion ft2 in 1Q/08, to 2.092 billion ft2.
Total North American consumption of structural panels was 5.362 billion ft2 in 1Q, compared to 7.938 billion ft2 in the same quarter of 2008, a decline of 32.45%.

The US consumed 4.638 billion ft2, 13% lower than in 4Q/08, (5.351 billion ft2) and 33% less than in 1Q/08, (6.940 billion ft2). Canada’s structural panel consumption was 724 million ft2, down 19% from 891 million ft2 in 4Q/08; and 27% lower than the 998 million ft2 consumed in1Q/08.