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Tasmanian Blackwood Growers

Research funding into forestry on farms


This article appeared in the news last night.

Money has been found by the Australian Federal Government to fund a project to “research to investigate the tree varieties, soil types and planning needed to introduce timber plantations on farm.”

The project is to be coordinated by the Forest & Wood Product Association:

As of this morning there was no mention of this project either as a proposal or as a reality on the FWPA website.

In fact if you look through the FWPA website farm forestry doesn’t seem to rate highly at all. Oh well! If you do a word search on “blackwood”, Australia’s premier appearance grade timber species for over 100 years, you get nothing at all!! Blackwood is just not on the FWPA radar. Curious!

Anyway back to the new item:

“FWPA managing director Ric Sinclair said funding for the research project would benefit both timber processors and farmers.

“This research is about giving decision support to farmers about how and where to put trees on their property that can maximise value,” he said.

Mr Sinclair said the industry had “learnt a lot” from the mistakes made by the agribusiness companies behind failed managed investment schemes.

Ross Hampton from the Australian Forest Products Association said growing trees on farms would lead to a significant increase in Australian timber resources.

“The resource is obviously fundamental for growth,” Mr Hampton said.

“We’ve had two large resource baskets in Australia — the plantations and the native forest area.

“What’s been missing in Australia really has been a large input from our farming community.”

I wonder what they mean by “maximise value”?

There is no mention at all about costs, prices, markets, demand and profitability.

The project focus seems to be about growing trees for domestic wood processors, rather than about improving profitability for farmers.

It’s curious that money can be found for yet another research project and yet another dust-covered report, rather than allocating money to help implement the 2005 Farm Forestry National Action Statement:

“What’s been missing in Australia really has been a large input from our farming community.”

Perhaps the farming community have been missing because until the forest industry starts behaving like every other primary industry, then farmers are not prepared to face the already significant risks associated with forest investment. Plenty of reports have identified reforms which the forest industry must implement in order to improve investment in planting. So far those reforms remain elusive!

Here’s just one example from a FWPA report:

“The lack of price transparency for forest products, particularly from hardwood forests/plantations, represents an impediment to the uptake of farm forestry. Unlike other commodities, price information for forest products is not published through the newspaper or accessible online. Better price transparency is required to encourage smallscale investment in trees.”

Well I’m happy to say I’ve been doing my bit to help the blackwood market in the face of significant industry and Government apathy.



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