Category Archives: Furniture

Creating a functional wood market in Australia

Farm grown blackwood timber at Ceres Fair Wood, Melbourne. $10,000 per cubic metre. Ceres Fair Wood is one of the few businesses in Australia that cares about the future of quality wood.

The Past/Present

For thousands of years humans have been using wood for all sorts of reasons – to hunt, cook, stay warm, build shelter and wage war. And for all that time we have had natural forests to plunder. Whatever wood we could find we used, mostly with plenty of contempt and waste.

But the days of plundering natural forests are just about over.

One of the problems this history has created is dysfunctional wood markets.

Cheap plentiful wood from natural forests has meant no one has ever taken responsibility for the future. Cutting down and sawing up trees is simple. Getting trees planted and managed for the future is the real challenge.

There are thousands of businesses in Australia that rely on wood (harvesting, transport, milling, retail, manufacture, craft, music, art, etc.), and 99.99% of them take no interest or responsibility in the future supply of wood.

There is no relationship in the market between using and consuming wood and a tree being planted and managed.

Third party certification schemes such as Responsible Wood/PEFC and FSC are not building the forest industry and growing more wood for the future. Their goal is to save and better manage existing natural forests, not to grow more new wood resources.

The fact that the forest industry in Australia has never established any commercial credibility hasn’t helped the situation.

There must be a credible, transparent relationship between the price of wood and the cost of planting, growing and managing trees; and that relationship must encourage and support more tree planting to meet future demand.

My focus here is especially the premium solid wood market.

Until we build proper functioning wood markets in Australia most of these Australian businesses will disappear. Some will switch to imported wood when public native welfare forestry is shut down, but many will close. All for the want of a proper functioning wood market.

The Future

There are plenty of challenges that need to be addressed in order to build proper functioning wood markets but they are not insurmountable.

  1. Possibly the first and greatest challenge is market (and consumer) recognition and responsibility.

Proper functioning wood markets in Australia must be driven by the market and consumers.

Recent comments in the media by furniture makers and builders in Western Australia (in response to the shutting down of public native forestry) do not provide encouragement. Can you believe they would rather import timber from Indonesia than support local farm forestry?

How the thousands of wood-dependent businesses in Australia will come together to coordinate and plan their future is part of this challenge. Most of these businesses are too small to achieve much by themselves. The Australian Furniture Association could take on this role for furniture makers. Builders, cabinet makers and retailers could possibly join the AFA in this.

https://australianfurniture.org.au/

Is the AFA up to the challenge?

2. The second challenge is getting the farming community on board to plant, grow and manage the trees that the market wants.

I personally think this second challenge is by far the easier of the two.

Once farmers see the market change to being responsible and supportive they will quickly get on board.

There will need to be some serious talking and building trust, and careful management of risk.

Unlike the past where the market could pick and choose from a wide variety of natural forest woods, the market must now decide on which species it wishes to promote and support in farm forestry. Species must be fast growing and command sufficient market price to allow farmers to grow them commercially. Given we are talking 30+ years between investment/planting and harvest/revenue/profit, this will require careful consideration, coordination and planning.

The idea that farmers just randomly plant hundreds of different tree species in the hope of finding a buyer in the future just wont work. Farm forestry for the growing of high quality premium solid wood will require coordination and planning, driven by the market.

This is where organisations like the AFA must play a central role.

Final some discussion about markets.

Will there still be demand for premium quality solid wood in 30+ years time?

Certainly over my 40+ year career as a forester I have seen premium quality solid wood go from a being a common cheap product to a scarce expensive product, with all indications leading to its eventual disappearance from the Australian market entirely.

I think this is primarily a supply issue, rather than one of demand.

I see sufficient evidence that the market is prepared to pay very high prices for quality solid wood.

The problem is that in a dysfunctional wood market, these price/demand signals don’t trigger a supply response as they should. If we had a strong farm forestry culture in Australia and proper functioning wood markets, these price/demand signals would be making front page news. That is where we need to get too!

So dear reader, what do you think?

Comments and ideas welcome.

If not native jarrah, where does WA get its hardwood?

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-29/jarrah-price-spike-spurs-indonesian-hardwood-imports/100575880

This is the conversation we should have been having 50 years ago when the forestry wars began!

These are the important questions that will determine the future of the forest industry in Australia.

The end of Public Native Welfare Forestry in Australia has been coming for decades. But so many people dependent on it have chosen to ignore this fact.

Most furniture makers and builders just expect quality timber to be in the marketplace ready to buy. They have no interest in securing their own future.

How do furniture makers support farm forestry? Will furniture makers and builders support farm forestry??

New Zealand farmers have been happily growing quality timbers including lots of different eucalypt species, and blackwood, for decades. Why can’t Australian farmers?

Why don’t Australian furniture makers support New Zealand farmers and buy New Zealand grown quality wood? New Zealand farmers would love to sell their quality wood to Australian furniture makers.

If New Zealand wants timber, New Zealand farmers grow it!!

Why can’t Australian farmers grow timber for Australia??

Australia has never had a proper forest industry. Nor has it ever had proper functioning wood markets.

It has all been welfare, ideological and political!!

Not an ounce of commercial reality anywhere!!

Imagine if Australian furniture makers got behind and supported farm forestry in Australia. Just imagine the huge transformation that would initiate!!

The argument that you can’t make quality furniture out of plantation timber is of course utter bullshit. It is part of the bullshit the forest industry says to justify plundering taxpayers and our public native forests.

“We’ve never been able to grow jarrah or karri well in plantations,” Mr de Fégely said.

That is true for Jarrah, but not true for Karri. Karri is a very fast growing eucalypt species. It has been grown in plantations in South Africa for almost a century.

When it comes to defending public native welfare forestry, the forest industry will completely disparage farm forestry.

The final comments from forestry head Rob de Fégely are utterly stupid.

Growing trees for wood production is NOT welfare, it is business!!

Mr de Fégely wants to keep defending the welfare forestry model.

It’s time we gave welfare forestry the flick!!

It is time to support farm forestry in Australia!!

The Australian International Timber and Woodworking Festival

Otherwise known as Wood Dust.

wooddust

https://www.wooddustaustralia.com/

Now this is ambition.

I wrote recently how I thought New Zealand needed a national wood festival to take their already successful forest industry to the next level.

Well it seems Australia is looking to go one better with an international wood festival, which is extraordinary given the parlous state of our forest industry.

I’ve also written recently about wood-based festivals in the 21st century that fail to recognise where the wood comes from and who grows it:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/02/13/all-about-the-wood-nothing-about-the-growers/

And finally I wrote recently about the Maleny Wood Expo in Queensland that is a much better example of what a 21st century wood festival should be like:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/02/19/maleny-wood-expo/

Every single wood-based festival in the 21st century should:

  • Demonstrate concern for where the wood comes from (is it sustainable and not just certified); and
  • Encourage and support profitable private tree growers.

The Maleny Wood Expo does this by having clearly defined mission and objectives.

The Expo aims to promote the whole ‘timber’ story – from seed collection through planting forests, harvesting and milling to the end product, the furniture.

The Maleny Wood Expo comes from a landcare base, whilst Wood Dust comes from a wood craft base, and the difference in attitude is immediately apparent.

Don’t get me wrong.

I think Australia desperately needs a major wood festival to help rebuild our battered forest industry, but on a proper basis. Encourage profitable private tree growing. No wood from public native forests.

Wood Dust is on October 17 – 21, 2018 in Bungendore and Queanbeyan, NSW, Australia.

Tickets are available online.

So whilst this year’s Wood Dust Festival falls well short of what I regard a modern wood festival should be I hope it is a great success and can grow to include the “whole timber story”.

 

Market demand for Tasmanian blackwood

logs-on-ship-close-up.jpg

I am getting enquiries from buyers in Asian markets looking to buy blackwood from Tasmanian farmers. Here’s a recent example:

 

Dear Dr. Gordon Bradbury

How are you? I hope you all are very good!

This is Paul ███ from ███ Furniture that is a furniture wholesaler in Victoria, And in Guangdong China have own furniture factory. Our factory produces leather sofas, bed and wooden furniture. 

Recently, we knew that a Chinese company import 20 containers of blackwood logs from Tasmania, we are very interested in this product, I would like to know can you supply the blackwood to us?

Or if you can provide us the supplier for our future’s potential cooperation, that will be grateful!

Looking forward response for you soon

 

Best Regards

Paul ███  

Director

 

I’m happy to put this enquiry up on my website to help improve forest market transparency.

The question is what exactly do these buyers want, what volumes, and at what price?

The next question is what farm blackwood resource is available to meet the demand, and how do we mobilise more of the Tasmanian farm blackwood resource? The farm blackwood resource in Tasmania is generally of average to poor quality because Tasmanian farmers have mostly never considered themselves tree growers, so the existing blackwood is unmanaged.

And finally can market demand for premium Tasmanian blackwood progress to the point where Tasmanian farmers regard growing premium blackwood as a commercial profitable opportunity and begin planting?

Given the Tasmanian political and forest industry context, I suspect this change in the farming community will take more than just normal market forces. It will also require market leadership and support!

I’m happy to pass these enquiries on to any log traders or sawmillers out there, but my objective is to build the blackwood industry. This means using market demand and price to encourage farmers to establish blackwood plantations and actively manage their remnant blackwood forest.

Is anyone up for the challenge?

Please contact me if you want details.

Can premium blackwood timber once again become an iconic quality Tasmanian product?