Monthly Archives: December 2016

Seasons Greetings

Another year gone.

It’s Christmas eve and time to wish you all a happy and safe festive season and a prosperous new year.

Instead of the usual review of the year, Bob Taylor from Taylor Guitars has kindly provided a positive news story on which to end the year.

Taylor Guitars are partnering with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA):

to design a model of sustainable ebony production for their Crelicam sawmill in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Collaborating with the researchers of the Center for Tropical Research and UCLA’s first international affiliate, Congo Basin Institute, we will be developing a sustainable ebony logging and manufacturing model that is sensible in economic, ecological, political and legal contexts while at the same time maximizing the engagement of the local community.

https://www.facebook.com/taylorguitars/videos/10154828082742232/

To help fund the project the UCLA are seeking to raise $US15,000 in donations from the community.

So all us guitar and violin players out there here’s our chance to help put ebony back on the road to sustainability.

Do we want ebony fretboards for the future, and help the people of Cameroon? You bet we do!

If you make a $US3,000 donation one special donor will receive a Baby Taylor Guitar and get a tour of the Taylor Guitars Facility. I assume that is for US residents only.

https://spark.ucla.edu/project/3473

Good luck to the UCLA Undergraduate Research Team for Sustainable Ebony Production.

Happy donating.

See you in 2017!!

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Tasmanian Primary Wood Processors Directory 2016

pft_tpwpd2016

http://www.pft.tas.gov.au/publications/market_information

The 2016 Wood Processor Directory is now available from the Private Forests Tasmania website.

I’ve reviewed these Directories in previous years:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2015/10/07/tasmanian-primary-wood-processor-directory-2015/

This Directory is the sum total of “market information” that the forest industry in Tasmania wants the general public to see. Apparently the expectation is that farmers will rush out and invest in growing trees because of this directory. Or is it simply there to assist in the salvage of what remains of the private forest estate?

The Directory is a listing of 42 of the estimated 51 primary wood processors believed to be operating in the State of Tasmania. It has been primarily developed to help private forest owners with logs for sale to identify potential buyers as well as enabling the forest owner to more easily locate and contact primary wood processors.  The Directory also helps the listed primary wood processors to source logs from the Tasmanian private forest estate.

There’s nothing in that statement about becoming more efficient, profitable and building the industry.

Of the 42 businesses listed in the directory 16 indicate they are looking to buy blackwood logs from private growers, whilst 2 businesses list special species sawlogs without specifically mentioning blackwood. I assume these 2 businesses include blackwood in their requirements.

As in previous years Britton Brothers PL of Smithton, Australia’s largest blackwood sawmiller, apparently does not buy blackwood sawlogs from private growers.

That makes 18 out of 42 businesses (43%) listed as buying blackwood sawlogs from private growers.

To find these businesses:

  1. download the directory from the PFT website
  2. open the directory in Acrobat Reader
  3. Press CTRL+Shift+F to open the Search box
  4. Type “blackwood” in the search box and press Search.

As I said last year, there are far too many players in the blackwood market for the tiny volumes coming off private property.

Yes we need competition.

We also need much greater price and market transparency.

Simply having a Directory of Processors is a long way from building a profitable sustainable future.

The Tasmanian blackwood industry needs to be more commercial, efficient and profitable. This means fewer processors who are processing larger volumes more efficiently, accessing more valuable markets and offering growers better money to encourage more blackwood growing.

Clearly this is not happening in Tasmania!

Which of these 18 businesses are offering the best prices for blackwood logs?

Which of these 18 businesses have access to a variety of high-value domestic and export markets?

Which of these 18 businesses provide price and market transparency to stimulate interest and encourage investment?

Which of these 18 businesses are actively encouraging Tasmanian farmers to grow/regrow commercial blackwood for the future?

Which of these 18 businesses are actually looking to build the future of the blackwood industry?

Do these businesses understand the critical part they play in ensuring the future of the industry?

Or are we still in salvage mode?

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?

Island Specialty Timbers Tender Results

ist

http://www.islandspecialtytimbers.com.au

For the past three years I’ve been collecting, analysing and reporting blackwood log tender results from Island Specialty Timbers (IST) as, despite the miniscule volumes and generally poor quality, these are the only competitive blackwood log prices that are publically available.

Just for the fun of it I thought I would start collecting and analysing all the tender results. You never know what might turn up!

This data doesn’t have much market value. Besides blackwood, no one is going to invest money based on the tender results for the other specialty species, which are too slow growing to allow for profitable investment.

The best value this data has is to show what the marketplace might pay for premium quality timber. When Tasmanian public native forest oldgrowth and rainforest timbers are no longer available, will the marketplace come to better appreciate farm-grown Tasmanian blackwood?

Forestry Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government consider the management and harvesting of public native forest specialty timbers (including blackwood) as a taxpayer funded community service. So why does Forestry Tasmania/IST put these tiny volumes to tender and publish the results? What is the point?

Forestry Tasmania’s major product Tasmanian Oak has no price or market transparency. Why the need for competitive markets and price transparency for community-service specialty timbers, where there is no competitive markets and price transparency for eucalypt hardwood? It makes no sense!

IST was established ”to increase the recovery, availability and value of specialty timbers from harvesting activities in [Tasmanian] State forests”. Does IST achieve its stated objectives? Does it operate at a profit? We will never know!

Island Specialty Timbers has been operating for 25 years. In that time it has never produced a market report; and only in the last 3 years has Forestry Tasmania included IST sales highlights in its Annual Report.

http://www.forestrytas.com.au/about-us/publications

So far as I’m aware these are the only publically available competitive market log price results available anywhere in Australia!

30 million cubic metres of wood is harvested in Australia every year and all we have are competitive price results for less than 200 cubic metres! Isn’t that extraordinary??

Does the forest industry really want to encourage investment?

isttender-chart

The size and quality of products tendered by IST varies enormously so it is difficult to draw conclusions from these results.

Remember these prices are equivalent to mill door log prices, so harvesting and transport costs are theoretically included in the prices.

All up over the 15 months 210 cubic metres of logs were sold by tender with total revenue of $162,000. An additional $18,100 revenue was received by Forestry Tasmania directly from Tasmanian taxpayers to compensate for the costs of harvesting this 210 cubic metres.

87 cubic metres remained unsold from the tender process. Few of the logs tendered were of premium (Category 4) grade, most of which are sold under private long term sales agreements, including virtually all of the Huon pine.

Five species attract strong demand and high prices, these being black heart sassafras, plain white sassafras, king-billy and huon pine and leatherwood with average log prices over $1,000 per cubic metre. Celery top pine sold for an average price of $530 per cubic metre. All of these species take 400-1,000 years to reach maturity so I suspect even these prices are cheap.

And don’t forget these public native forest specialty timbers come to you courteously of an $86.27 per cubic metre direct taxpayer subsidy.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/11/13/special-timbers-subsidised-charade-continues/

Black heart sassafras and blackwood made up 25% each of the successful tendered volume over this 15 month period, but made up 46% and 6% of the sales revenue respectively. Blackwood comprised 55% of unsold log volume, perhaps suggesting that the local Tasmanian market for plain grain blackwood is saturated. This is not surprising given you can buy plain grain select blackwood timber in Tasmania for the same price as Radiata pine.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/11/12/blackwood-timber-price-list-summary-2016/

The harvesting of specialty timbers from Tasmanian public native forests is neither profitable nor sustainable.

I will provide an update on IST tender results every six months.

Wish List Revisited

Makeawish

The recent Ministerial Statement by Tasmanian Resources Minister Guy Barnett, and the strong negative reaction it provoked from both the community and the forest industry got me thinking about the wish list I wrote last year.

http://www.premier.tas.gov.au/releases/ministerial_statement_-_forestry

So I’ve decided to update my Wish List.

Does Tasmania want a successful forest industry?

If so then here are a few ideas:

  1. Government policy

Tasmanian Government forest policy continues to focus on public native forest, a failed State forest agency, and protecting local jobs at any cost. If we adopted this same thinking for any other primary industry Tasmania would be an economic basket case. Our politicians and large sections of the forest industry and the community still think of the forest industry as a community service, a government employment program.

Sorry guys but it’s the 21st century.

The only basis for a successful modern forest industry is profitable tree growing.

Most wood now grown and sold in Australia comes from private tree growers.

It is time to put the policy focus on profitable private tree growers and away from public native forest and a failed State forest agency.

Implementing the Federal Government’s Farm Forestry National Action Statement 2005 would be a good place to begin.

http://www.agriculture.gov.au/forestry/australias-forests/plantation-farm-forestry/publications/farm_forestry_national_action_statement

 

  1. Government structure

We need to think of forestry as a primary industry and not as a Government-run, politically-driven, taxpayer-funded employment program.

One example of this change would be to move Private Forests Tasmania (PFT) from the Department of State Growth Tasmania to the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE). At the moment this DPIPWE website contains no mention of forestry at all:

http://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/agriculture

Why isn’t forestry regarded as a primary industry in Tasmania?

Why isn’t Private Forests Tasmania part of DPIPWE?

So that all commercial forest policy and practice is aligned with primary industry policy the Government Minister responsible for PFT/DPIPWE should also be responsible for Forestry Tasmania. Now does that sound logical or what?

  1. Private Forests Tasmania

Following from the above logic Private Forests Tasmania needs to become the dominant Government forest agency, NOT Forestry Tasmania.

  1. Forestry Tasmania

And following on we need to get the politics, conflict and the anti-competitive policies out of the industry. That means either a) completely transforming Forestry Tasmania into an independent, fully commercial, profitable business, or b) shutting down public native forest logging.

  1. Plantations

The future of the forest industry is plantations. And like all primary industries the only basis for a successful forest industry is for (public and private) tree growing to be transparently profitable. The forest industry and the Government need to do everything they can to encourage profitable market-driven plantation investment. No scams!! See below for my comments on forest practices and markets and transparency for two ways to achieve this.

  1. Native forests

If there is any value/profitability at all left in logging Tasmanian native forest it must be pretty marginal. The Tasmanian Oak brand has been pretty well trashed over the last 50 years. Commercially managing native forest is a very costly operation. The only way it can be viable is by producing very high value products from most of the resource. This has never happened. Certainly in the pulp and construction markets, which account for the vast majority of the wood market, native forests don’t stand a chance competing against plantation-grown wood.

  1. Special Timbers

Using scarce taxpayers money to cut down 400+ year old public native rainforest and oldgrowth in the 21st century, with the excuse that special timbers are an essential part of “Brand Tasmania”, makes no sense whatsoever. All wood production must be fully commercial and profitable. There must be no community-service forestry in Australia. Given that blackwood makes up the vast majority of special timbers production anyway, and it can be grown in commercial plantations, the focus of special timbers policy must change.

  1. Forest practices

I have four thoughts here:

  1. The current Tasmanian forest practices code was developed when community-service public native forestry dominated the industry. However in the spirit of over-regulation it provided a significant hurdle to private plantation development. The forest practices code needs to be reviewed within the light of the following three comments.
  2. We need to create a primary industries level playing field when it comes to environmental management, so that regulation does not distort land use decisions. New Zealand has this approach to “forest practices” with their Resource Management Act 1991. I don’t see why Tasmania should not follow their example.
  3. Following on from b) the Tasmanian Forest Practices Authority should be merged with the Tasmanian Environmental Protection Authority to provide environmental monitoring, regulation and research services across all jurisdictions. Why does the forest industry need its own separate environmental regulation system?

http://www.fpa.tas.gov.au/

http://epa.tas.gov.au/

  1. The Australian forest industry should work towards developing a single set of national plantation management guidelines for the whole country as much as it is able within the maze of different State jurisdictions. At the moment regulations governing plantation management vary enormously across Australia. This is stupid and anticompetitive. It will be a long process but a worthy goal.
  1. Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) needs to become a genuine independent, vigorous advocate for private forest growers. The interests of private forest growers are not the same as those of sawmillers, or Forestry Tasmania nor the Government of the day. A thriving commercially competitive, profitable forest industry can only exist when private tree growers have a strong, fearless, independent voice. The TFGA is the only option currently available.

  1. Competition, prices, markets and transparency

The forest industry in Australia hates open market processes and transparency! This is not surprising given its history. When was the last time you saw a forestry market report in the Australian media? When was the last time you saw a sawmiller hang out his slate looking to buy sawlogs?

In my books this is the major challenge for the industry. There have been a few attempts in the past to change this but they have failed due to lack of industry support. The industry will have no future until it becomes fully commercial – aggressively commercial!!! It’s all about competition, prices, markets and transparency. Farmers will never take the forest industry seriously until this happens.

  1. Where to begin?

Tasmania is a great place for growing trees for wood production.

But Tasmania is a small island a long way from world markets.

Because of our size and remoteness we cannot compete well in commodity markets like pulpwood and construction timber. We must think small volume high value niche markets such as appearance grade timbers and timbers for specialty markets. New Zealand farmers are doing this. But it needs focus and a strategy, not a random shotgun approach. One obvious example is macrocarpa cypress. There is a growing demand for this timber, as a handful of people in Tasmania know very well. NZ has thousands of hectares of cypress plantation growing on farms. Why doesn’t Tasmania?

  1. Blackwood

Tasmanian blackwood provides another ideal example of a low volume high value forest product with which to help rebuild the forest industry. Quality appearance grade timber will always be sort after in the market, especially the super premium market. Tasmania could easily be producing 30,000 cubic metres of premium blackwood sawlog per year with the right policy and industry backing. At $500 per cubic metre that equates to $15 million in farm gate value per year. So where is the policy and industry support that will make this happen?

 

Unfortunately all of these ideas are so beyond current forest industry and political thinking they will never happen.

Certainly Minister Barnett’s Ministerial Statement contains nothing like the above plan.

No one is campaigning in Tasmania for private forest growers and a fully commercial profitable forest industry!

Tasmania does a good job running a successful dairy industry; and a pretty good job running beef, vegetable, apple, cherry and wine industries. So what is it about the forest industry?

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?