Category Archives: Commentary

New Zealand Cypress Market Report

And one VERY switched on sawmiller!!

Macdirect

This has little to do with farm grown Tasmanian blackwood, but in terms of where I wish the forest industry in Tasmania was right now, this is a fantastic example. In fact I would rate this little piece as one of the best things I’ve read in my 40 year career as a forester:

http://www.nzffa.org.nz/specialty-timber-market/headlines/member-profile—macdirect/

It’s a shame it’s hidden away in a corner of the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association (NZFFA) website so that very few people will ever read it.

I suspect Murray Grant, Director/Owner of MacDirect Ltd., didn’t set out to write a cypress market report. But that is exactly what this is. This “member profile” is jam packed with lots of useful information for existing and potential cypress growers.

Most Tasmanians would only know macrocarpa cypress as large scraggly farm windbreak trees. Only a handful of Tasmanians know that this tree is fast growing and produces a high value, high quality, durable timber. New Zealand farmers have been growing it in commercial plantations for 40 years. There are only a handful of small cypress plantations in Tasmania.

MacDirect Ltd is NZ’s number 1 Building Grade Macrocarpa supplier.

https://www.macdirect.co.nz/

To me the thing that makes Murray Grant unique is that he’s not just thinking about how to improve his sawmills profitability; he’s not just thinking about the logs that will be coming into his sawmill tomorrow or next week.

He’s thinking about the logs that will be harvested in 10, 20 and 30 years time!!

He’s thinking about the trees that need to be planted tomorrow!!

The major priority of EVERY sawmiller is NOT to produce profitable sawn timber! That’s the easy part of the business!!

Given that timber takes 30+ years to grow, the major priority of every sawmiller is to ensure that farmers are growing more (profitable) trees for wood production to meet market demand.

Sawing up logs is the easy part!!!

And Murray Grant knows this when he says:

We would love to hear from any farm foresters who are keen to work closely with us to grow plantations into the future, get our perspective on silviculture for the marketplace and/or look at log price and harvesting.

Murray Grant knows the critical part that sawmillers (and the market generally) play in ensuring their own future.

Murray Grant is a hero!

He needs a medal!!

 

 

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Softwood growers seek sector review

SWANpine

https://www.bdtimes.com.au/?news%2Fbusselton-dunsborough-times%2Fsoftwood-growers-seek-sector-review-ng-b88817681z

WOW!!

This must be the first time in my 40 year career as a forester that I’ve heard farm foresters openly complaining about Government control of forestry markets in Australia.

This is a unique event.

Hopefully this is the beginning of the major reform of the forest industry that is so desperately needed in Australia.

We really need to keep this discussion going.

And it’s not just about softwood prices.

It’s also about native forest log prices, and markets, transparency and competition.

It’s also about Government forest policy which is firmly focused on subsidising sawmills, and not about profitable tree growers.

This is true right around Australia!

I wish the WA farmers luck in their discussions with the State Government.

Even if you don’t succeed initially, keep the discussion going. Keep the campaign alive.

The fact that here we have farmers wanting to grow trees for wood production and yet we have Government policy directly hindering their efforts is beyond madness.

GOOD LUCK!

Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) delivers $1.3bn losses in ‘giant fraud’ on taxpayers

logging2

This is an excellent rewrite of John Lawrence’s article from last December now published in The Guardian.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/29/tasmanian-forest-agreement-delivers-13bn-losses-in-giant-on-taxpayers

Giant Fraud is an understatement!

Tasmanian’s have been completely swindled!!

That’s a $billion dollars that should have gone to our struggling schools and hospitals, not the forest industry.

So now the RFA has been renewed and Tasmanian’s will be swindled for another 20 years.

Veteran journalist Gregg Borschmann has been writing a veritable broadside of scathing articles about public native forestry in Australia. They are all worth reading:

https://www.theguardian.com/profile/gregg-borschmann

Greenpeace leaves the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

rainforest3

It’s a grim day for the world’s forests.

On Monday 26th March Greenpeace International announced it was leaving the FSC.

Greenpeace said that the FSC has become a “tool for forestry and timber extraction” and it wouldn’t renew its membership.

Greenpeace International to not renew FSC membership

Here’s how the Washington Post reported the story:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/greenpeace-leaves-sustainable-wood-certification-group/2018/03/27/aa6c0a4e-3184-11e8-b6bd-0084a1666987_story.html?utm_term=.1993de3f7510

The FSC’s response to the Greenpeace announcement clearly shows no interest in rebuilding the relationship. Is this an indication that vested interests have indeed successfully taken control of the FSC?

FSC Statement about Greenpeace International

Is this the end of third party forest certification?

Forestry is the issue that dare not speak its name

PFN

This is an excellent article in The Guardian yesterday about the Tasmanian State election campaign. Compared to the last election in 2014, forestry has been completely off the agenda by all parties in 2018. The elephant in the room waiting to reek havoc on the Tasmanian community once more.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/mar/02/tasmanian-election-on-all-sides-forestry-is-the-issue-that-dare-not-speak-its-name

We are on track to waste even more $100 millions of taxpayer dollars over the next Government term on the bankrupt forest industry, because of our failed political system.

Well worth reading!

Heartwood: The art and science of growing trees for conservation and profit

Heartwood

http://www.agroforestry.net.au/main.asp?_=heartwood%20book

Fellow forester Rowan Reid recently wrote this book which has been getting a lot of media coverage. I thought I’d write a review.

Rowan is passionate about trees and farm forestry. And like me he’s pretty critical of the policies and practices of State and Federal Governments and the forest industry. As such Heartwood says very little about past and current industry and Government policies and practices to thwart or encourage farm forestry.

In one respect I can see why he has avoided discussing the current Government, industry and market context. Rowan obviously wants to keep the book positive. The problem is when it comes time to sell your cherished sawlogs you have to deal with that context, and it’s often not a positive experience.

One of the first things I do with a new book is look at the contents page to get an overview of the books structure.

Here’s the Contents page from Heartwood:

HeartwoodTOC

With Heartwood that didn’t work. I quickly discovered there was content not shown in the Contents page. So I’ve made a list of the other Contents:

Quartersawn, backwsawn and shrinkage 34
The components of a tree trunk 52
Basic tree felling 53
How to grow tall trees 70
How much space does a tree need to grow? 88
Geotropic and phototropic growth in trees 108
Attracting wildlife to your farm 124
Measuring moisture content and wood density 144
Wood density and tree age 145
Reaction wood: tension wood and compression wood 162
Hardwood sawing patterns for a horizontal bandsaw 178
Tree foliage for supplementary fodder 200
Pruning trees for sawlogs 220
Durability of timber 240
Growing shitake mushrooms on logs 258
Shelterbelt design 276
How to plant a tree 294

Heartwood contains a wealth of information and knowledge about trees and farm forestry written in a personal and engaging style. Rowan’s view of farm forestry extends beyond commercial wood production (although that is clearly his main focus, as you can see from the other Contents page). His vision is to reintegrate trees back into the rural landscape to achieve multiple benefits.

If you want a head start in how to grow these trees this is a good place to begin.

The question remains – what are the commercial risks associated with planting these species? After all, the book’s title does include the word PROFIT!

And here’s where I start to have problems with the book.

How do we start a conversation in Australia about profitable tree growing?

Certainly Governments and the forest industry take great efforts in avoiding discussing profitable tree growing. To them it is anathema. Such discussion would inevitably put the spotlight on the failings of public native forestry, and they are at pains to avoid that.

Heartwood avoids any serious discussion about end uses, markets, costs and prices, so it’s hard to see where the profits come from. There’s also no discussion about laws and regulations pertaining to farm forestry. Rowan’s desire to avoid the current “context” and remain positive starts to feel awkward.

Some of the species in the book are quality appearance-grade timber species. In theory they are high value. Appearance grade timbers in Australia have historically either been imported or have come from public native forests. With public native forestry in Australia traditionally run as a community service rather than a business, proper commercial markets for quality timber have never developed.

One example of weak/non-existent markets is the steady stream of phone calls I get from people who have stashes of Australian Red Cedar timber hidden in back sheds for decades. They now want to sell, but can’t find buyers. At the time these sheds full of Red Cedar were seen as a guaranteed investment. But after 100 years the market for Red Cedar has moved on leaving these “stranded assets”.

And yet there are people today planting and growing Red Cedar hoping to revive this long dormant market. Will they succeed?

Heartwood is full of optimism and hope. The forest industry has a long history of unrealised optimism.

Most of the appearance grade species in Heartwood would be destined for the furniture, flooring and cabinetry markets (office and shop fit-outs, etc.); or for the export market. The Australian furniture industry is well aware that it faces a looming timber supply crisis as evident in this recent media article:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-16/victoria-ash-timber-facing-fresh-crisis-supply-issues/9424290?smid=Page:%20ABC%20News-Facebook_Organic&WT.tsrc=Facebook_Organic&sf182264054=1

But the furniture industry has no plans to address this crisis besides appeals to Governments. The furniture industry could be supporting and encouraging private tree growers, but so far there is no evidence of this.

Rowan has been working hard for decades promoting farm forestry in Australia but governments, industry, markets and farmer groups have pretty much ignored his efforts.

Heartwood will fundamentally change the way people think about the future of forestry and in doing so it will encourage more landholders to grow more trees for the benefit of their land and all that depend on it.

I’m not sure that statement is true because most of the change/reform that is needed has to happen in the marketplace and with Government policy as much as with landowners.

I see no indication that the marketplace or Governments understand what reform is needed to realise Rowan’s dream; his Third Wave!

By all means get yourself a copy of Heartwood. It is an enjoyable read.

The book is as relevant to furniture and cabinet makers as it is to farmers/landowners. Maybe a few policy makers and forest industry leaders could learn a thing or two.

Thanks Rowan!

All about the wood, nothing about the growers

TBG

It’s a funny old world!

I look around and see lots of events and festivals that have a strong wood focus, events such as:

All of these events either feature wood or have a strong link to wood.

But none of these events show any interest whatsoever in where their wood comes from, or who grows it!!

It’s as if they think the wood magically falls from the sky!

Do they not care?

I understand the history behind this attitude and thinking. In Australia we have had 200+ years of abundant public native forests to plunder. Why worry about tomorrow when there is a tree to cut down today!

But those days are clearly behind us. The treeless/woodless tomorrow is rapidly approaching. I read about it every day!

Or perhaps they believe there are hundreds of private tree growers out there happily and profitably growing so much quality wood that they don’t need to worry. I don’t see much evidence of that. Yes there are a few private tree growers around Australia but they are rare.

Or a third possibility is that these organisations believe it is NOT their responsibility to support and encourage private tree growing. If it isn’t the responsibility of markets to do this then I’m not sure who is responsible.

And still the festivals continue.

Even woodcraft galleries (and Australia has some world class woodcraft galleries) behave as if there is an endless abundance of wood.

It doesn’t make sense to me.

The idea of having a wood festival in the 21st century without any reference to where the wood comes from or who grows it is just extraordinary!

These events and businesses should think about how they can encourage and support private tree growers as part of their event/business program.

In encouraging and supporting private tree growers they ensure the future of their event.

It’s not just about existing tree growers, it’s about building a strong positive culture of tree growing in the rural community.

Some of these events and festivals are huge. They could make an enormous impact in rural communities, helping build a culture of tree and timber growing.

And including existing and potential tree growers into the program would bring a whole new audience to these events.

If anyone wants ideas or to start a discussion about how to include existing and potential private tree growers into their event program I’d be happy to help. Give me a call; send me an email…

PS. And knock me down with a feather!

Here we have a woodcraft festival that does acknowledge the importance of tree growers:

Maleny Wood Expo

We must more and more use timber from privately-owned forests as our appreciation of old growth forests leads to cessation of logging. Private forests provide not only timber – they’re an important farm asset and income stream. They repair and protect our land and provide biodiversity and habitat, shelter and support for agricultural and grazing enterprises, landscape aesthetics, bushfoods and much more. The Barung Nursery supplies quality tree stock for boutique and larger plantations.

They could do a lot more to encourage and support private tree growers but its a start.

Hey the world is changing!!