Category Archives: Plantations

Tree Alliance – MIS revisited?

https://www.treealliance.com.au/

Does anyone remember the Managed Investment Scheme (MIS) disaster of the 1990s?

It was the biggest corporate fraud in Australia’s history.

There was no Royal Commission and no one went to jail.

Billions of investor and taxpayer dollars disappeared, and thousands of Australian lives were ruined.

And the forest industry, which started the MIS schemes, refused to accept any responsibility for their actions!

It was a complete disaster!

And it had its beginnings in much the same way as the Tree Alliance is now starting off.

The forest industry has been very quiet the past 10 years as it has rebuilt from the ashes of the MIS disaster.

The MIS was a near-death experience for the forest industry. A few people made extraordinary wealth, but left the industry a smoking ruin.

Below is a list of those who support the Tree Alliance:

Supporters of the Tree Alliance:

The Tree Alliance aims to bring together a range of organisations to collaborate to achieve the tree planting and communication objectives. Current supporters include:

  • Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association
  • Tasmanian Agricultural Productivity Group
  • Tasmanian Timber
  • Tasmanian Forests and Forests Product Network
  • We Act
  • Climate Friendly
  • The Centre For Sustainable Architecture With Wood (University of Tasmania)
  • CSIRO
  • NRM South

Note that the above list contains no sawmillers, wood processors, log merchants,  exporters, or retailers. No one in the real forest industry supports the Tree Alliance!

Does that make you suspicious?

It should!!!

I wander through the Tree Alliance website and I see history repeating itself.

I see the forest industry (or at least public servants, scientists, NGOs and politicians) big-talking! Lots of promises and potential, just like the start of the MIS disaster.

BEWARE!

As I tell all my clients and those who make enquiries about growing blackwood:

“No one wants you to grow trees for future wood production!”

The real forest industry (including the marketplace) has not the slightest interest in your tree-growing dreams!

I get phone calls and hear stories of people who are bulldozing their trees they once planted and can now find no markets for!!

The Tree Alliance has all the features, promises and rhetoric of a giant fraud, just like the Managed Investment Scheme disaster.

BEWARE!

I support a real forest industry! New Zealand has a real forest industry; Australia does not!

In New Zealand the forest industry talks about prices, costs, supply, demand, markets, etc.; all those things that farmers understand and deal with every single day.

No one in the forest industry in Australia talks about such matters!

Looking at the Tree Alliance is like watching Dorothy and the Tin Man skipping down the Yellow Brick Road.

BEWARE!

Until the real forest industry (including the wider marketplace) WANTS a future I would steer clear of any hyper-marketing “forest industry” b***shit.

Cheers!

Timber processor alarmed over ‘massive amount’ of softwood exported to China

A large truck carrying neatly piled wood logs enters a large yard with thousands of large wooden logs.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-02/softwood-resource-exported-to-china-amid-log-supply-insecurity/12617994

Here we are. Sawmillers who have spent generations being on the Government payroll are now complaining about having to exist in a global competitive market.

With the sale of Government pine plantations, the new plantation owners are free to sell their logs to whoever they like, including customers who are prepared to pay more than domestic customers/sawmillers.

Imagine that! Competition and free trade in the forest industry. Who would have guessed?

This is a classic forest industry sob story, about poor hard-done-by sawmillers who can’t compete in a global marketplace.

The softwood industry is no longer part of the Welfare Forestry System in Australia, except in Western Australia and New South Wales, where Governments have yet to privatise their plantation estates.

I just love the pity-me language:

Our forefathers planted the trees — they were planted with a plan to create jobs into the future. It wasn’t about growing wood for Asia.”

A classic example of Trees-as-Welfare, not Trees-as-Commerce. The idea of growing trees to make a profit is anathema to these poor folk.

These sawmillers are demanding welfare not trees!

They are unwittingly demanding the destruction of their very own businesses and industry.

Clearly the Green Triangle Forest Industry Hub (GTFIH) is not the cohesive single-minded group that their website wants us to believe:

http://gtfih.com.au/

Tensions between growers and processors are running high!

The GTFIH has a plan to plant 50,000 ha of new plantation over the next 10 years. That definitely won’t happen with stories like this in the media.

Who would want to plant trees knowing you cannot trade in an open competitive market? Nobody that’s who!!

Unfortunately the article does not talk about prices and markets, or any idea of the growers side of the story.

And as for an industry Code of Conduct, that would be the final nail in the coffin for the already struggling forest industry in Australia.

What other primary producers in Australia face a more hostile political environment than tree growers? I can’t think of any! Happy to have your comments!

Anyone growing trees for wood production in Australia, whether plantation or native forest, should be very worried right now. Your investment is about to be destroyed by your politicians.

What a total mess the industry is!!

“Let’s fast track that plan!”

FastTrack

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/special-reports/more-trees-will-grow-jobs-economy/news-story/8b4fd3b46144584213fd106525ee0d6e

That’s forest industry speak for “hand over the taxpayers money now” and more political protection and subsidies please.

This is a typical piece of forest industry windy hyperbole; full of bluster, promise, and foreboding. I’ve been reading this kind of rubbish all my long forestry career.

The forest industry cannot convince Australian farmers to include commercial treegrowing in their business models.

Why?

Because the forest industry in Australia has zero commercial credibility!

So who then is the audience for this article?

None other than Governments and politicians of course.

This article is not written for the farming community.

As usual the forest industry talks about growing demand and supply shortages but fails to talk about markets, costs, prices and profits.

Forest policy in Australia has always been about loggers, sawmillers and processors – regional jobs.

Forest policy in Australia has never, ever been about profitable tree growers.

This article talks about regional jobs and communities, and deliberately avoids any mention of profitable tree growers.

Saving regional jobs – ie. Welfare forestry – is a major focus of the forest industry.

But welfare forestry is a dead end; a road to failure.

The only truism in this article is “we need to grow the plantation estate significantly and strategically”.

If forestry markets are so positive as this article wants us to believe, then why isn’t the marketplace responding and farmers planting trees? Surely that is the way markets work is it not? More demand triggers higher prices triggers more supply etc, etc.. Classic economics!!

But Australia does not have a forestry market. There is no relationship in Australia between wood supply, demand, price, cost and profit. None!

And that is the result of deliberate industry and Government policy.

The end result is that the forest industry has no commercial credibility and farmers don’t plant trees.

And the forest industry has no clue whatsoever how to fix this problem except write blustering rubbish like this.

Timber supply chain constraints in the Australian plantation sector

pine2

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Standing_Committee_on_Agriculture_and_Water_Resources/Timbersupply

On 26 September 2019, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources received a referral from Assistant Minister Duniam for an inquiry into timber supply chain constraints in the Australian plantation sector.

The Committee invites submissions addressing any or all of the terms of reference for the inquiry.

Submissions are requested by Monday, 17 August 2020.

The Committee is dominated by conservative Government members so the chances of anything useful coming from the inquiry are very limited.

Nevertheless here is my submission

Submission

Yet another inquiry into the forest industry in Australia!!!

I think it would be useful for the Committee to do a quick review/summary of every other forest industry inquiry/report. There have been hundreds over the past 50 years, with most of their recommendations having never been implemented.

The Committee could seek to answer the question why have so few previous recommendations been implemented?

Terms of Reference

To inquire and report on:

  • the nature of wood supply from Australia’s plantation sector including:
    • Projected timber volumes available over the next 30 years and the potential grades of logs available.

The question needs to be asked, does current and projected wood supply from Australia’s plantation sector meet current and future needs? Answer. NO!

The next question needs to be asked, if growing timber in Australia is profitable why doesn’t everyone (farmers) know about it? If it is not profitable, then what is the point of this inquiry?

Another relevant question is, what’s wrong with imported timber? If New Zealand farmers can grow timber cheaper than Australia then good luck to them I say! We do not need to be self sufficient in wood products just for the sake of self sufficiency!

 

  • The plantation wood supply available for domestic softwood processors including:
    • Current and future demand for logs for domestic processors; and
    • Any shortfall in current processing industry demand for logs.

This TOR definitely smacks of protectionism and market manipulation. Do you want farmers to invest in trees? If so then get rid of this protectionist bullshit. Domestic processors must compete in open competitive transparent markets, otherwise the domestic processors become increasingly high cost and uncompetitive, which has negative impacts throughout the supply chain from growers to retailers and consumers.

 

  • The competitiveness of log pricing between domestic and export market.

Who in Australia knows what the domestic and export log prices are, let alone whether they are competitive? I’m a forester with 40 years in the industry and I have never ever known!! What does that tell the Committee?

A former Director of Forestry Tasmania once said:

The lack of price transparency for forest products, particularly from hardwood forests/plantations [in Australia], 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.

Curiously Forestry Tasmania has never ever supported price transparency.

New Zealand has a REAL forest industry with excellent log price transparency. Australia has a completely dysfunctional forest industry.

 

  • The term of log supply contracts needed to support the processing sectors.

This TOR, like the second TOR above, is all about destroying the forest industry through market manipulation and protectionist policies. Local processors must compete in open competitive transparent markets. It is NOT the job of dairy farmers to subsidise cheese makers NOR is it the job of tree growers to subsidise local industry.

 

  • Opportunities to increase Australia’s wood supply, including identifying and addressing barriers to plantation establishment.

There are abundant opportunities to increase Australia’s wood supply, but they are vastly outnumbered by the barriers to plantation establishment. Many previous forest industry reports have addressed these issues, with all those previous reports now collecting dust on library shelves around Australia.

I have to ask why we need yet another report when the answers are already known! The forest industry in Australia is completely dysfunctional. Does it behave like a commercial business desperately wanting a future? No it does not!

 

  • The role that state governments could have in assisting in addressing any problems identified by the work of this committee.

All State Governments that engage in public native forestry (WA, Vic, NSW and Qld) are all engaged in industry-destroying Welfare Forestry. Welfare Forestry is all about subsiding processors and “saving jobs”. It has nothing at all to do with real commercial forestry.

The forestry industry in Australia has no future whilst Welfare Forestry continues to undermine the industry.

State Governments should be encouraging profitable tree growing, but all of them refuse to do this.

 

  • Make any recommendations around any code of conduct or management mode that could assist in addressing any problems identified by the work of this committee.

Please read all previous reports and inquiries and implement the recommendations!

But as just one example, New Zealand has a single set of environmental regulations that apply to all primary producers. The regulations do not discriminate against the forest industry. Similarly to overcome differences between local Council regulations, the NZ forest industry implemented a single set of plantation management guidelines that work across the entire country. Contrast this with Australia where the industry faces a mountain of diverse changing regulations across the country.

How can Australia hope to compete with NZ? We can’t! It is not possible!

 

Blackwood

Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) is Australia’s premium appearance grade timber. It can be grown successful in plantations, as NZ farmers are doing, and potentially it has a very high market value. But most blackwood comes from Tasmania where the State government and the forest industry work to undermine the market and supply the market with cheap taxpayer subsidised blackwood. Transparent competitive markets for blackwood do not exist because neither the Government nor industry want transparent competitive markets.

Attempting to establish a Tasmanian Blackwood Growers Cooperative is therefore impossible due to Government and industry policy.

Conclusion

I’m a forester with 40+ years experience in the industry. And for all that time, after hundreds of forest industry plans/strategies/inquiries and reports the industry in Australia remains moribund and dysfunctional.

New Zealand has a real forest industry, one of the most successful in the world. But we choose not to learn from their example. Up until 1990 the NZ forest industry was run by the Government, including public native forestry, plantations and sawmills. In the early 1990s the New Zealand Government decided to get out of the forest industry entirely. Public native forestry was shut down, and plantations and sawmills were sold. Since then the NZ industry has gone from strength to strength, and is now one of New Zealands major industries; fully private, commercial and profitable!! Do they still have challenges and opportunities? Absolutely! But they are committed and capable of resolving every one!!

The NZ forest industry is now 30 years ahead of the Australian forest industry and pulling further ahead of us every day. Will Australia even have a forest industry in another 30 years time? Not if we keep going the way we are!

Good luck with your Committee and its report and recommendations.

 

Sincerely,

 

Dr Gordon Bradbury

Hobart

Tasmania

Market for Plantation Grown Wood: Where we’re at and where we’re going

marketreport

https://www.pft.tas.gov.au/home/home_articles/market_for_plantation_grown_wood_where_were_at_and_where_were_going

Mr Andrew Morgan from SFM Forest Products calls this a Market Report!

https://www.sfmes.com.au/

I call it a load of fluffy woolley nonsense!

A total waste of time!!

Sorry Andrew but you deserve a complete bucketing for that mess!

Never mind the total absence of any objective market data (of which SFM Forest Products would have an abundance), the overall sentiment of the article is that the forest industry is full of risks and uncertainties. Better to put your money in a poker machine!!

Does the article inspire anyone to plant a tree for the future?

No way!

The forest industry continues to treat Tasmanian farmers as idiots, and Mr Morgans “Market Report” is a classic example.

By way of comparison here are two forest industry websites in New Zealand

http://www.laurieforestry.co.nz/Monthly-Newsletter

Monthly market reports with real numbers, and hard data!!

And this one is even better…

https://nz.pfolsen.com/market-info-news/

The New Zealand forest industry treats the farming community as essential partners in the industry, with complete and total respect. The focus of the industry in NZ is profitable tree growing. It’s a unique and successful approach.

You wont find a single forest industry website in Australia that looks anything like these.

There are dozens, hundreds of other people out there in the forest industry and the broader marketplace that could be providing regular vital market information to farmers to encourage and support them to plant trees, but all these people, without exception, refuse to do so! Such is the culture within the industry.

I’ll give you ½ mark for trying Andrew and I expect a much better attempt NEXT MONTH!

Market failure & responsibility

thelmalouise

One of the major realisations I have made over the past 10 years is the complete failure of forestry and timber markets to take any responsibility for their own future.

Here is just one recent example:

Good Day Dr. Gordon Bradbury,

Hope you can introduce some seller or loggers milling Tasmania Blackwood Logs or lumber etc,

Sir we are Hong Kong based company and looking for looking for Tasmanian Blackwood logs 40cm plus in diameter to import if possible,  1-2×40′ containers, CIF Incheon, South Korea.

Will appreciate if you could send us your complete offer with certificate (FSC/PEFC),, provide some photos for checking the quality and shape on logs, lumbers and veneers, MOq, terms of payment, terms of inspection, estimated delivery time, yard location etc.

Thank you so very much for your kind help

Kind Regards

I get regular emails and SMS messages from people wanting to get their hands on cheap blackwood.

When I try to engage these people in my quest, which is to get the market to take responsibility and support, encourage and reward Tasmanian farmers to grow quality wood for the future, I get excuses of why they cannot help!

Here is one of my standard questions I ask these people:

Q: Do you care about the future of YOUR industry/business?

A: Moan, complain, apologise, blame others, too busy, etc., etc., etc…

Is the forestry/timber market so short-sighted, corrupt and stupid that it is willing to destroy its own future?

It would appear so!!

Log traders, furniture makers, craftspeople, luthiers, cabinet makers, architects, builders, retailers, festival organisers,etc.

Every one of these professions/trades seems to have no interest in their own future.

I don’t know of any other primary industry in Australia that has such a fatalistic attitude. Every other primary industry, beef, sheep, poultry, dairy, vegetables, fruit, grain, etc. all keep their growers uptodate, supported and informed with all the relevant information they need to keep these industries running smoothly and efficiently.

Not the forestry/timber market!

Yes forestry has long investment periods and some other unique characteristics, but this means that the market has to work that much harder to ensure its future.

Having plundered the worlds forests the forestry/timber market seems determined to do a “Thelma and Louise” and accelerate over the cliff to extinction.

And for those log merchants wanting cheap blackwood, all the existing resource in Tasmania is committed. Most of it comes for public native forest for the domestic welfare forestry sector. A small amount is salvaged from private property.

Here’s another way of looking at the issue. How many companies are there in Australia and around the world that use Tasmanian blackwood timber or would like too? Dozens? Hundreds? How many of these companies actively support and encourage the growing of Tasmanian blackwood? My guess! None!! Ziltch!!

I’m happy to be proven wrong.

Very few Tasmanians are planting blackwood for the future and the major reason is the careless attitude of the marketplace. The marketplace has a death wish!!

People I speak to who are interested in planting blackwood I tell them the truth – no one wants you to grow quality blackwood timber for the future. Nobody! No one will support or encourage you. In fact many people are actively working against you!

Why commit to a 30+ year investment growing quality timber when the marketplace couldn’t care less?

Planting Timber Forests on Australian Farms – a Reaction

NextGeneration

This recently published article in the University of Melbourne journal Pursuit caught my eye:

https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/planting-timber-forests-on-australian-farms

The article provides a very brief overview of the Next Generation Forest Plantation Investment Project:

https://blogs.unimelb.edu.au/nextgenplantations

The Project itself covered a great deal of ground and hence there is a great deal of reading material in the 10 separate reports and supporting documents.

Trying to distil all this material down into a digestible take home message is a challenge in itself. And it depends upon the intended audience. I’m not sure the article succeeded, with too much focus on “new business models”.

As I’ve been writing for many years, the forest industry in Australia is in serious trouble on just about every level. Many of the problems faced by the industry are of its own making.

Past attempts to reset the industry and plan a way forward have largely focused on what Governments and taxpayers can do for the industry. Not surprisingly vast sums of money have been wasted, for little if any gain. Often the outcome has been disastrous!

One could say that confidence within the Australian forest industry is at an all time low.

Back to The Project and the article….

The positives:

  • A focus on farm forestry and a recognition that this IS the future of the forest industry (many others in the industry strongly disagree with this sentiment);
  • A recognition that the forest industry itself needs to change its attitudes and behaviour towards the broader rural community (this is a very rare admission!);
  • A recognition that the forest industry itself needs to take control of its own future and not expect Governments and taxpayers to do the job;
  • Within Report 10 of the Project is a list of 11 recommended actions which the forest industry itself should do to support more commercial tree investment on rural land. This is very rare indeed!

The negatives:

  • The Project covers too much ground! The forest industry just doesn’t have the resources to deal with half of the recommended Actions, even if it wanted too. And I expect half the industry just isn’t interested.
  • The article focuses on “new businesses models”, as if this is the keystone to all of the forest industries problems and potential. The article fails to convince me. I see other issues being more pressing and significant.
  • Where to next? With an enormous list of recommended actions the Report provides no clues to how any of these actions are to be implemented or by when. Will this Project become yet another forest industry dust collecting exercise?

About the best statement in the article is this:

The industry recognises that creating opportunities from more commercial trees on rural land will require them to change the way they interact with rural landowners.

That is a unique and extraordinary statement.

Meanwhile there is no evidence that the industry does in fact recognise the need for change.

So would the average Australian farmer be convinced by this article (assuming they even hear about this project)? I doubt it.

They would see the focus on “new business models” and assume it was Managed Investment Schemes (MIS) Mark 2, designed to take their money and land and rip them off yet again.

As far as the farming audience goes, the article has the wrong message.

So dear reader, tell me what you think of the article?

Are you brave enough to wade into all the Project Reports?

Happy  reading!

PS. Farm forestry has been promoted in Australia since the 1960s with very little progress over the last 50+ years. Has anyone in the forest industry ever asked the question – what are we doing wrong?

“They should have been planting extra trees 15 years ago,” one frustrated sawmill owner said

sawmill3

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-09/why-the-victorian-government-is-taking-an-axe-to-timber-industry/11687952?fbclid=IwAR0J9KGJbcZCmbexgIqHsrj47aV44vpqJXPjWRmgW2KYhbnZve_hWgExAFI

This quote from a native forest sawmiller pretty much sums up for me why the forest industry in Australia is in such a crisis!

Sure, it’s historical.

It comes from having a forest industry that up until 20 years ago was almost 100% Government run.

Why would anyone other than Government, take responsibility for growing the industry?

That is what the sawmiller meant when he said “they”. Politicians plant trees! Sawmillers cut them down! A complete absence of personal responsibility!!

And that attitude is still the dominant attitude within the forest industry in Australia, even when most timber now grown and harvested in Australia is privately owned.

Here we are in the 21st century and no one in the forest industry in Australia takes any responsibility for ensuring the industry’s future.

And when I say forest industry here I mean anyone whose business relies on wood, from retailers, craftspeople and manufacturers all the way back to loggers and sawmillers.

It is the job of the marketplace to ensure the forest industry has a future, not politicians or taxpayers.

This means an end to Welfare Forestry and a focus on profitable tree growing.

It also means a complete change of attitude and thinking within the industry.

And it means building strong enduring relationships with rural communities.

So when do we begin?

Blackwoods – selecting the best trees

NZFFA BROWN

Ian Brown is a blackwood grower and co-author of Blackwood A handbook for Growers and End Users, the New Zealand bible on all things blackwood.

He has recently written a fine update on blackwood research including some new findings about clonal blackwood. It is available on Ian’s blog on the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association website (link below):

https://www.nzffa.org.nz/nzffa-member-blogs/ian-browns-blog/blackwoods—selecting-the-best-trees/

Well worth reading.

Thanks Ian!!

National Forest Industries Plan 2018

Better

The only basis for a successful forest industry is profitable private tree growers.

And once again the Federal Government and the Australian forest industry have failed to deliver.

Last week the Federal Government launched another plan for the Australian forest industry:

http://www.agriculture.gov.au/forestry

http://ausfpa.com.au/media-releases/morrison-government-promises-a-billion-new-production-trees-sets-new-vision-for-growing-australias-renewable-forest-industries/

Yet another opportunity for Australian taxpayers to give generously to the tune of $20 million over the next 4 years with more to come.

But wait! There is a Federal election due before November 2019.

Surely this is coincidence!

Another forest industry plan so close to an election. Is that pork I smell cooking?

Apologies for my cynicism but I’ve seen this so many times before.

Forest industry plans have a short shelf life in Australia. The Use By Date generally coincides with the next election/change of Government.

The Plan is 15 pages long, 15 pages of marketing and spin with very little substance. Just reading the 2 page Preface tells me that I’ve read all this many times before.

If this Plan was an investment prospectus it would be in the bin within the hour.

The Preface tells me:

  • Its all political;
  • Its all about the sawmillers/wood processors;
  • It even mentions “resource security” which is just another term for industry subsidy.
  • Competitive markets, log prices, market transparency are not discussed at all!
  • It tells me that Farmers will play a vital role. Farmers beware!!! Here’s a typical quote: Working with farmers to secure a long-term ‘wood bank’ for the forest industries’ future…. That’s it! Farmers role is to help subsidise the forest industry.
  • Does the Plan discuss profitable tree growing? Not at all!

The Plan has 15 Actions listed under 4 headings. Every one of the Actions is what the Government/taxpayer is going to do for the wood processors. Not one of the Actions concerns what the forest industry will do for itself.

There is no Implementation Plan. How, who and when are these Actions going to be fulfilled? Based in past industry plans I assume few if any of the Actions will see the light of day.

The word “export” is completely absent from the Plan. Access to log export markets is an essential part of the future of any viable profitable forest industry.

The Plan fails to address the many distortions and blockages in forestry markets in Australia (like Government control and manipulation of log prices). One major issue here is the management and performance of the various State forest agencies. All these agencies MUST be made fully commercial and profitable, or they must be must be shut down.

Many reports have been written highlighting the issues preventing investment in tree planting in Australia. This Plan ignores these issues entirely!

As I said in my previous blog forest policy should not be about sawmillers/wood processors. That is the wrong focus. Good forest policy should be about profitable private tree growers. Once tree growing is demonstrably profitable then the investment in processing will follow.

This Plan is all about sawmillers/processors.

The political and industry spin doctors really had fun with this statement:

The National Farmers Federation’s support for the inclusion of farm forestry tree plantings as a supplement to primary agricultural purposes confirms that farmers are poised to support a bigger part of tree growing in our landscape.

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) has only recently decided that forestry might be a primary industry. To date their interest and commitment has been minimal. They have no policies or farm forestry programs.

The one single positive I can say about the Plan is that it has a stronger emphasis on farm forestry than previous plans, but not in a way I find encouraging.

If you have 30 minutes and want some light entertainment download the Plan and have a read. Then tell me what you think!

Will this Plan ignite the forest industry in Australia?

Or will it join the dozens of previous forest industry plans collecting dust on library shelves around the country?

Cheers!