IST Blackwood Sawlog Tender Results 2014-15

IST 0515 log 16

Here is a summary of blackwood sawlog tender results from Island Specialty Timbers (IST) for the 2014-15 financial year.

http://www.islandspecialtytimbers.com.au

This follows my inaugural report last year:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2014/06/14/blackwood-sawlog-tender-results-2013-14/

During the year 14 lots of blackwood logs were put to tender by IST. These were individual logs except for two parcels of small logs in the October 2014 and January 2015 tenders. Only one log was unsold for the year from the August 2014 tender.

Total volume of blackwood logs sold was 31.06 cubic metres (or approximately 0.3% of the total volume of blackwood logs sold by Forestry Tasmania for the year) for a total value of $20,660.

Plain grain logs in 3 lots totalling 18.7 cubic metres sold for an average volume-weighted price of $227 per cubic metre.

Feature grain logs totalling 12.4 cubic metres sold for an average volume-weighted price of $1,325 per cubic metre.

These good prices were achieved despite many of the lots having quality issues (spiral grain, flutes, branch stubs, small diameter). Some of the lots could best be described as craft logs.

This compares with the special timbers average mill door log value of $134 per cubic metre that Forestry Tasmania received in 2013/14.

There was such a variety of log grades and qualities in these 14 lots that for analysis and summary I’ve grouped the logs into just plain and feature grain, as these seem to be the main determinants of price.

In general logs sold by IST are smaller and with more defects compared to logs sold under long-term contract to favoured customers. They do not represent average “run-of-the-bush” quality logs.

Table 1 summarises the tender results.

  Lot count Average of SED (cm) Average of Len (m) Average of Vol (m3) Sum of Vol (m3) Average of Unit Price ($/m3) Total Price ($)
Plain 3 44 5.9 1.0 18.67 $302 $4,244
Figured 10 60 3.9 1.2 12.39 $1,280 $16,420
Sold 13 57 4.3 1.1 31.06 $1,054 $20,664
Plain 1 69 2.4 1.2 1.20
Unsold 1 69 2.4 1.2 1.20

The highlights for the year were:

  • One small feature-grain log that sold for a unit value of $2,400 per cubic metre in the January 2015 tender, and
  • A log (1.6 cubic metres) that sold for $3,260 ($2,000 per cubic metre) in the February 2015 tender, which contained some feature grain but also had significant quality issues (sweep and spiral grain).

The lowest unit price for the year was achieved by the parcel of 13 small plain-grain logs in the October 2014 tender. This parcel totalled 10.1 cubic metres in volume, with average dimensions SED 42cm, LED 47cm, Len 5.0m, vol 0.78 cubic metres. This parcel sold for $200 per cubic metre.

Only one of the logs tendered approximated in size and quality what might be grown in a well managed blackwood plantation. This was Lot 20 in the March 2015 tender that sold for $620 or a unit price of $485 per cubic metre. This is a very good price and puts the value of a blackwood plantation at harvest at well over $100,000 per hectare!

Are any Tasmanian farmers interested?

In 2013/14 IST sold a total of 1,531 cubic metres of product including 136 cubic metres sold through the tender process “to ensure that the best possible prices were obtained” (Forestry Tasmania 2013/14 Annual Report). Only 16.1 of the 136 cubic metres (12%) was blackwood, despite the fact that blackwood comprises 80% of the special timbers harvest annually. I wonder how much of the 1,531 cubic metres of product was blackwood? We will never know. Frustratingly Forestry Tasmania don’t tell us how much the 1,531 or the 136 cubic metres sold for.

These tender results represent the only publically available competitive market prices for blackwood sawlogs. Given that blackwood is the only Tasmanian specialty timber that has the potential to have a commercial future these prices are important in alerting Tasmanian farmers and the wider community to the commercial opportunity that is available.

One thing that is clear from watching the regular IST tender results, the special timbers market is capable of paying extremely high prices for quality special timber logs as evidenced by the massive $5,900 per cubic metre paid for a tiger myrtle log at the April tender.

Caveats:

  1. Island Specialty Timbers (IST) is an enterprise of Forestry Tasmania established in 1992 to increase the recovery, availability and value of specialty timbers from harvesting activities in State forests.
  2. Forestry Tasmania manages its special timbers operations (including IST) as a taxpayer-funded, non-commercial, non-profit, community service.
  3. Note that all logs and wood sold by IST comes from the harvesting of public native old-growth forest and rainforest certified under AFS (PEFC).
  4. It is unlikely that this tiny set of market-based blackwood log prices is representative of the broader blackwood market.
  5. The dataset is too small to allow any analysis or correlations to be made between price and log quality apart from the obvious result that feature-grain logs attract a significant price premium over plain-grain.
  6. Remember also these tender prices are effectively mill door prices that already include harvesting and transport costs. They are not stumpage prices.

It would improve market transparency and stimulate greater investor interest if IST would tender more blackwood logs and demonstrate real commercial focus. Increasing the blackwood volume tendered to even 100 cubic metres per year would be a good start.

But whilst Forestry Tasmania, the State government and the State parliament all regard the special timbers industry as a community service and political play-thing rather than any commercial opportunity, then blackwood’s commercial future remains difficult.

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial, profitable forest industry, based on profitable tree-growing?

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