By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
A Nassau-based building supplier yesterday warned consumers to brace for at least a 100 percent increase in lumber prices during this hurricane season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Raymond Collins, Tops Lumber and Plumbing's general manager, told Tribune Business: "Because of the pandemic there has been a shortage of lumber right now, and it's driving the prices up. Like plywood, you used to buy it at $300 for a 1,000 feet board, but now it's like $600.
"With lumber there is a shortage, and the dealer I deal with has actually sold out of lumber. There is like a six-week wait on lumber, so it is driving the price up. Some of the prices have already gone up 26 percent to 30 percent.
"That's affecting The Bahamas, so people here will see that prices are going up and they are probably wondering what's going on, but it is beyond our control. Mills in the US, some of them are shut down and some of them are not putting on second crews to keep up with the demand because of COVID-19. So there is a big, big shortage."
Mr Collins said prices have already increased in The Bahamas as a result, and could rise further. "I had put prices up on some of my two by four's last week and two by six's," he added. "I don't know what the other companies are doing, but I know there is soon to be a shortage because they are only going to start allowing so many trucks into the country, or out of the country, to the US because they have to keep themselves supplied over there."
The Tops chief said the present COVID-19 lockdown means "everybody is home now, and they are taking money and putting it into home improvements", further exacerbating the supply shortage and putting pressure on prices to rise.
He added, though: "Right now, I'm OK. I have a lot of lumber coming in. I'm okay on plywood and I'm supposed to have some coming in, but plywood is in short supply and it maybe is that you have to wait two or three weeks to get a load in. Plywood is the biggest thing here in The Bahamas in terms of hurricanes and battening up and stuff.
"For shingles, when I placed an order for shingles, they told me I couldn't get my order in until the end of October. That was in September, so even shingles are becoming in short supply. It's a domino effect out of the US now in terms of the lumber.
"Consumers need to see that prices will go up, and it is not really anything to do with the local suppliers trying to price gouge them. There is nothing to do with that; it is just that prices in the US have gone up so much," Mr Collins continued.
"Four by four's, for some odd and unknown reason, is a regular lumber that you used to buy for $600 a board foot. Now you have to pay somewhere upwards of $800 a board foot. That's just one item, and then decking is what people in the US have been buying a lot of. You can't even get that now as it is so far out of reach. It's a month or two months before people can get that kind of stuff right now."