The latest New Zealand Tree Grower November 2013 34(4) journal, published by the NZ Farm Forestry Association, contains some excellent articles and discussion about blackwood.
Two articles by tree farmer Malcolm Mackenzie are worth reading.
This article reports the results of a small sawmilling study looking at factors affecting sawn timber recovery in farm-grown blackwood. The logs used came from a 27-year-old shelterbelt, and were on the small side, so the recoveries were generally not that high. But the best log gave a 66% sawn recovery, including 78% of clear blackwood timber, which sells in New Zealand for $3,000 per cubic metre!
Two log quality factors that Mr Mackenzie did not report on were sweep and taper, which can also affect sawn recovery. It would have also been useful to include sawn clear recovery for the entire study, as it is the clear, knot-free wood that has the premium price.
But as Mr Mackenzie says “my challenge to fellow farm foresters is to become more scientific in their analysis of their trees in their growing stages and in their harvest. It takes time but it is useful information. I would ask that we accept the need to share information particularly as it applies to harvest results.” I couldn’t agree more.
These results hint at the possibilities that will result once New Zealand blackwood farmers begin harvesting their well managed plantations in the near future. When this happens someone needs to organise a sawn recovery study of premium plantation grown blackwood sawlogs. I’m looking forward to reading that report.
In the second article Malcolm Mackenzie talks about his ideas regarding collective marketing of New Zealand blackwood. His focus is the domestic New Zealand market. The article contains some excellent ideas.
However I suspect that the New Zealand farm blackwood resource will be more than enough to supply the local market, with the export market being much more significant for NZ growers, including the Australian market.
The export market will provide advantages that the NZ domestic market cannot, including:
- markets for knotty blackwood timber that the NZ market cannot take;
- strong price competition;
- multiple markets and buyers looking for reliable supplies of premium grade timber;
- access to high-value prestige markets such as the international tonewood market;
- the well established Australian blackwood market in particular will be looking for alternative sources of blackwood timber, as supplies from Tasmania decline in the coming years.
I recently did a rough scoping study and calculated that New Zealand could be producing up to 10,000 cubic metres of premium blackwood sawlog per year within the next 5-10 years. Once markets, demand and price transparency become established, the feedback signals to farmers will quickly see the New Zealand blackwood resource expand further.
Perhaps Tasmanian farmers will then start to take notice.
NB. Thanks to the NZFFA for putting these two articles online allowing general public access.