Well I’m sure we can all agree. It definitely hasn’t been your average year!
Island Specialty Timbers (IST), the only source of open, competitive, transparent market blackwood log prices, managed to conduct 6 log tenders during the year. A normal year would see 8-9 log tenders.
IST is a business enterprise of Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT) which sources and retails raw material of Tasmanian specialty timbers from harvest or salvage operations conducted on State owned Permanent Timber Production Zone land (PTPZl).
You can read my previous annual tender summaries here:
Despite the fact that blackwood is by far the most common specialty wood in Tasmania, IST insists on restricting tender sales of blackwood. Only 3 blackwood logs were put to tender this year in 2 of the 6 tenders; 3 logs out of a total of 194 logs put to tender!
That’s pretty pathetic!!
Tasmanian blackwood is the only specialty timber species that can be grown in commercial plantations. Having a plentiful supply of market information might actually stimulate investment in tree growing in Tasmania, but IST/STT and the Tasmanian Government are determined to prevent any useful market information being available.
IST/STT and the Tasmanian Government continue to support Welfare Forestry in Tasmania, instead of promoting a profitable commercial forest industry.
All 3 blackwood logs put to tender sold, 1 log had figured grain, the other 2 logs were plain grain.
All 3 logs were of good size and reasonable quality.
The figured grain blackwood log sold for $825/m3, total price $982.
The 2 plain grain blackwood logs sold for $400-$450/m3, total prices $468-$774.
The following chart shows the volume and price data for the last 6+ years for plain grain blackwood logs. Having enjoyed 4 years of steadily improving prices this year showed a subdued market.
These logs are sold into the small local Tasmanian market which restricts prices somewhat.
These prices are effectively mill door delivered, not stumpage prices.
The following chart shows the range in size of the sold plain grain blackwood logs.
A target plantation grown blackwood log has a volume of 1.5 cubic metres and a small end diameter (SED) of approx. 50 cm.
Overall IST put 112 cubic metres of specialty timbers to tender in 2019-20 of which 97 cubic metres sold for total revenue of $94,200.
Last year Sustainable Timbers Tasmania sold 9,747 cubic metres of specialty timbers, so these competitive tender sales represent a mere 1% of specialty timber sales from public forests in Tasmania.
The following chart shows the volume and price summary for all tenders back to 2015.
The tiny volumes and wide variability in species and quality of logs that IST put to tender makes assessing trends over time difficult.
The next chart shows the average volume of the sold logs. Here there is a clear trend of diminishing log size. If it wasn’t for the occasional large eucalypt log IST throws into the tender mix, this trend of diminishing log size would be even more evident.
The following 2 charts show the above data summarised by year:
What remains apparent is that the market continues to pay high prices for quality timber.
The main focus of IST tenders is black heart sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum) which can command very high prices for good logs.
However the tree is slow growing (500+ years to reach commercial size) and is restricted to rainforest and old growth eucalypt forest, so supplies of this species are dwindling.
Surprisingly the marketplace continues to support the plundering of Tasmania’s last ancient forests!
For 2019-20 black heart sassafras made up 37% of sold volume and 52% of tender revenue, whilst eucalypt feature grain logs made up 22% of sold volume and 9% of tender revenue.
6.7 cubic metres of celery top pine logs (Phyllocladus aspleniifolius) were sold at an average price of $1,050 per cubic metre.
Overall highlights for the year were $4,975 per cubic metre paid for a small musk (Olearia argophylla) log; whilst a total price of $2,933 was paid for a medium sized black heart sassafras log.