Canadian lumber producers are predicting another buoyant year because of the ongoing construction boom in North America.

Strong housing starts in the US and Canada are expected to keep lumber prices high, despite the softwood lumber dispute between the two countries.

Western construction studs reached an average price of US$393.35 during 2004, up from US$269.15 in 2003.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation believes Canadian housing starts will moderate to 216,300 this year from last year’s 233,431.

Meanwhile, US and Canadian trade officials are said to have had a constructive meeting in Toronto with the aim of possibly re-starting negotiations in the ongoing softwood lumber dispute.