Monthly Archives: May 2013

Blackwood supply set to plummet, prices to skyrocket

With the pending implementation of the Tasmanian Forests Agreement and the unsustainable management of the public blackwood resource over the past 17 years, the supply of blackwood sawlog from State forest is set to plummet. Read the Certification and Supply page (above) for further background on how we came to this unfortunate situation. Following the planned resource review sustainable annual sawlog supply could go as low as 4,000 cubic metres, down from the current approximate annual harvest of 10,000 cubic metres.

This will have a dramatic and positive impact on sawlog prices and provide a significant commercial opportunity for existing and potential private blackwood growers.

The key question in all of this is:

Will the forest industry open itself up to allow greater competition and market transparency so that these changes in supply can be allowed to transparently affect sawlog prices and hence stimulate supply from private growers?

No doubt some market substitution will occur in response to this change in blackwood supply (Economics 101). We will start importing blackwood timber from New Zealand farmers, while some buyers will seek alternative species from mainland and overseas suppliers. Yes even the New Zealand farmers will benefit from the Tasmanian Forests Agreement.

There is insufficient information publically available to get a clear picture, but what parts of the jigsaw puzzle are available suggest that the blackwood market is set for a major disruption. Will market forces be allowed to respond accordingly?

So what do you think?

  1. What changes in forest market behaviour would you want to see happen before you considered the blackwood market “open for business”? Regular market reports in Tasmanian Country? Sawmillers regularly advertising for growers/suppliers? Regular auctions by Forestry Tasmania of blackwood sawlog parcels to gauge current markets and provide greater price transparency?
  2. If you are a farmer/landowner, at what sawlog price would you start considering investing in blackwood plantations? $200, $400, $600, or $1000 per cubic metre? At what sawlog price would you consider better managing your existing farm blackwood to improve its commercial value?
  3. If you are a blackwood buyer/processor what changes would you like to see happen to see the blackwood industry put on a more commercial, sustainable future?
  4. Do you think a Blackwood Growers Cooperative would provide the blackwood industry with the basis for a secure, commercial, sustainable future? What support should the coop receive to help become established?

Give us your thoughts and comments.

Impressive performance

IMG_0399sThis 2.5 metre tall tree is the first 12 months growth on an impressive tree a in a new blackwood plantation in southern Tasmania. Not bad given it was such a dry season! It should be stressed that this was an exceptional tree in the plantation. Even so the rest of the plantation did very well considering, most trees being about 1.3 metres tall.

There are always exceptional trees in any plantation, and they are very good at providing inspiration.

That bracken will need to be slashed again this winter.

This is a very protected site so there is little risk of wind damage.

Can we look forward to a 6.0 metre tall tree in 12 months time? At that rate of growth all the necessary leader and branch pruning will be completed in 2 years. Awesome!

Here come the Americans!

(and a challenge for my readers)

As I’ve written previously (1,2,3,4) blackwood is a recognised quality tonewood and international customers are scrambling to find sustainable sources as the traditional supplies (mostly from tropical rainforests) become exhausted. One of the key players in this movement is Taylor Guitars from California. They publish an impressive quarterly owners newsletter “Wood & Steel”.

So here’s the challenge – download a copy of the 2013 Winter edition of “Wood & Steel” below (7.5 MB pdf file) and see if you can discover how many times the word “Tasmania” appears, and I mean do more than just a quick word search. Read the articles. Especially read the article by Taylor’s President Bob Taylor on page 5. Bob Taylor is one switched-on, passionate executive.

There is enough potential demand in the international tonewood market to make a significant difference to the blackwood industry in Tasmania. And the advantage is this market can utilise shorter log lengths that traditional sawmillers don’t want; the kind of material that is currently growing unmanaged and unappreciated on hundreds of farms around Tasmania. This demand, coupled with this existing resource could kick-start a blackwood growers cooperative. Four steps to a profitable, sustainable blackwood future:

1. Realise the commercial potential of the existing farm blackwood resource and put money into farmers pockets now;

2. Build the industry by helping farmers grow more quality blackwood in plantations for the future;

3. Gain FSC Certification for farm-grown Tasmanian blackwood;

4. Build another iconic Tasmanian industry.

With the TFA legislation now passed in the Tasmanian Parliament and the associated $400 million of Federal money soon to become available, now is the time for the industry and the community to demonstrate support for the future of the blackwood industry. Please post you comments of support.