Monthly Archives: February 2013

Major customer interest in the Blackwood Growers Cooperative!

American-flag-2a

I have established direct communication with one of the major US guitar makers who have recently visited Tasmania and initiated a commercial relationship with a supplier. The company wishes to remain anonymous for the time being. However they have been at the forefront of the sustainable tonewoods movement over the past 10+ years, having established commercial relationships with sustainable tonewood ventures in a number of countries. Here are some extracts from their emails:

“You seem to have a very well laid out [blackwood grower cooperative] plan, one we may discuss publicly supporting in the future. At this point we aren’t ready to do that, since we have yet to really do business on a long term (or short term) basis in Tasmania.”

“I will probably be taking a trip to Tasmania in the next 5 months and would like to meet with you at that time, we can see how we stand and how to move forward.”

While the local forest industry remains deeply divided and political, we have an important commercial opportunity in the making.

If we can get 2, 3 or even 4 major international guitar manufacturers buying farm-grown Tasmanian blackwood it might generate enough business to at least partly fund a cooperative, and certainly create plenty of market profile and momentum.

For the coop to be fully self-funding however there needs to be enough blackwood volume/value leaving farm gates to generate sufficient harvest levy. We don’t have any information about the existing private blackwood resource in terms of commercial volume/value/sustainable yield, but I doubt the resource is enough to fully fund a coop. Can the commercial potential of this existing resource be improved and realised? Absolutely! Can this resource be better managed to improve its future value? Absolutely! But we also need to plant more blackwood to create a new resource that will provide more volume/value out the farm gates of the future. Plantation blackwood will provide the necessary volume and value to help fully fund the coop. The tonewood market is the catalyst that will allow this process to begin.

The tonewood market is a premium market that can utilise short logs that are common in the existing unmanaged farm blackwood resource. Because it is a high-value market more of this low-volume, widely-dispersed resource can be profitably accessed. With enough support more information can be provided to landowners about their blackwood resource in terms of log specifications, prices, demand, etc. which should provide farmers with greater assurance that the forestry market is functioning more like a proper commercial market. Also many of these major guitar companies are looking for opportunities to promote their environmentally sustainable sources and practices once solid commercial relationships have been established. Tasmania could be next on the list as the home of premium quality sustainable tonewoods.

I’m looking forward to meeting with the guitar company representative when he is next in Tasmania and discussing how we might build the Blackwood Cooperative as a successful commercial business.

Native timbers lure big guitar makers

ABC Radio

Tasmanian Country Hour

Friday, 25 January 2013

http://www.abc.net.au/rural/tas/content/2013/01/s3676869.htm

My friend Robert MacMillan (Tasmanian Tonewoods) was recently interviewed by Rose Grant on the ABC Radio Country Hour, providing a small window into what is currently happening in Tasmania regarding the tonewood market. Read the story and listen to the podcast.

As I’ve said previously, the international tonewood market has the potential to completely change the future of blackwood in Tasmania. Major buyers are looking for new sustainable supplies, and blackwood is already regarded as a premium tonewood. There is a large existing blackwood resource on private land that can supply current tonewood demand.

It’s great and so rare to get some real market information about blackwood. If this information was more regular and transparent, we would know much more about prices and product specifications. This would then help generate interest in growing blackwood and hence help build a growers cooperative.

In this interview Robert provides some indications of current demand (20 truck loads per year), product specs (almost –dead trees?) and pricing (fiddleback more valuable than plain grain), but it is really just a teaser. I don’t think it provides enough detail to get farmers to take notice in harvesting their existing trees, let alone consider planting more blackwood. But it is a start.

It would be even better if some of these major US guitar builders would come here and do some media and promotion in support of growing blackwood. If they think that sustainable farm-grown blackwood is going to happen with no transparency and promotion then they will be sadly disappointed.

Also checkout Roberts recent interview with Barratts Music in Launceston. Great work Bob!!

Recently I was contacted by a very well known Tasmanian custom furniture builder. I’ll call him M. We had a long conversation on the phone about forestry, blackwood, and future possiblilities. M prefers to source most of his timber from private land as he doesn’t support current forest industry policy and practices on public land. M is very interested in the growers coop proposal. Particularly the prospect it offers in the future for selecting and breeding premium blackwood cultivars such as fiddleback. I certainly value having M’s support, as things have been a bit quite lately.

I hope everyone had a great summer break, and are refreshed and ready for another year. And I hope the Legislative Council Committee see the light and approve the TFA Legislation.

Cheers!