Industry shipments of corrugated products decreased 9.3 percent, from 34.47 bsf in May of 2019 to 31.28 bsf in May of 2020, the Fibre Box Association (FBA) reported. The decline is partially due to the fact there were two less shipping days in May 2020. Average week shipments decreased 0.2 percent, from 7.835 bsf in 2019 to 7.821 bsf in 2020. Shipments of corrugated products are up 1.1 percent year-to-date.
Containerboard consumption decreased 13.6 percent, from 2.846 million tons in May of 2019, to 2.459 million tons in May of 2020. Consumption is down 0.2 percent year-to-date over 2019. Containerboard inventory at corrugator plants increased 1.4 percent, from 2.2914 million tons in April to 2.3246 million tons in May 2020. Weeks of supply grew from 3.6 in April to 3.8 in May, or 5.6 percent.
“After a strong first quarter start, the pandemic’s impact on box shipments has been to reduce them to no increase, a 0.1 percent gain through the first five months of the year,” noted Dick Storat in his Scoring Boxes newsletter. “Economic activity awakened last month, as evidenced by a strong rebound in retail sales, which advanced by 17.7 percent in May after falling by 14.7 percent in April. Average week box shipments also recovered from April’s level, with a 2.8 percent monthly gain.”
Storat also noted that the production of containerboard for export was “remarkably strong considering the greatly diminished global economic activity.” Nearly half a million tons of containerboard, mostly unbleached kraft linerboard, was made for foreign markets, a “surprising 17.5 percent advance from April’s setaside.”