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.