Category Archives: Price Lists

Hoop pine

Hoop

The recent discussion about Bunya pine and the tonewood market led me to wonder about Queensland Hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii)

Hoop pine is the only premium plantation timber species currently harvested in Australia. Some 500 ha are harvested each year. It is not known how much wood is produced from this harvest.

As such Hoop pine provides the only example in Australia of what a future plantation blackwood market might look like; with the one exception that if I was around I would be trumpeting the blackwood market dynamics as much as possible. Market transparency is vital!

Here’s a Hoop pine fact sheet from the Queensland government:

http://era.daf.qld.gov.au/id/eprint/3931/4/hoop%20pine%20final%20factsheet_update%20May%202017.pdf

(Curious how these forest fact sheets never talk about economics or log prices, as if investing in trees has nothing to do with money!)

The 44,500 ha of Hoop pine plantations were established by the Queensland Government but were sold when the Government decided to privatise the forest plantation resource in 2010, and are now owned by the one company,  Hancock Timber Resource Group, with the plantations managed by HQPlantations.

http://www.hqplantations.com.au/araucaria.html

So far as I’m aware the forest industry is not seeking to encourage the expansion of the Hoop pine plantation resource. Given that the Hoop pine owners pay no local Government rates, expansion of this resource by competing landowners will be difficult.

No one will ever know how much the market is paying for Hoop pine logs. It’s difficult enough to find Hoop pine timber retail prices. Timber merchants positively hate advertising their prices. So the economics of plantation Hoop pine as an investment are unknown and that’s the way the forest industry likes it.

If you spend a lot of time searching on the internet you may find the following economic study of plantation hoop pine investment:

Herbohn, J.L. 2006, ‘Potential financial returns from Hoop Pine and an assessment of the likely impacts of various support measures on landholder willingness to plant’, in Harrison, S.R. and Herbohn, J.L (ed.), Proceedings of Sustainable Forest Industry Development in Tropical North Queensland; Cooperative Research Centre for Tropical Rainforest Ecology and Management, Rainforest CRC, Cairns.

Herbohn 2006

The study uses a stumpage of just $70 per cubic metre for a 45-50 year-old plantation grown premium wood product!!

That would certainly kill any landholder willingness to plant!

All a 2012 Queensland Government report on the State forest industry could say about Hoop pine was these 60 words:

Araucaria (hoop pine) plantations consist largely of plantings of hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii), with smaller areas of bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii). However, araucaria log timber is relatively costly to produce because of high management and harvesting inputs, largely as a result of the steep sites on which it has been established and high pruning costs. Crop rotation lengths are also very long at around 40 to 50 years.

State of Queensland (2012) Queensland forest and timber industry situation analysis.

It doesn’t sound encouraging does it?

Nevertheless I managed to track down one Hoop pine retail price list:

HoopPriceChart

It’s a curious price list in terms of the limited sizes available and the prices. High prices for small cuts but not for big cuts. Wide boards (140mm) are cheaper, with thicker wide boards (31mm) being cheaper than thin boards (12mm). The prices on the range of 42mm wide boards (8, 19, 31 and 42 mm) provides for some curious deliberation.

What is clear is that these represent premium prices (~$9,000 per cubic metre) for premium plantation timber. Compare these prices with the $2,500 per cubic metre for dressed premium grade Radiata pine from Bunnings Hardware:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/07/01/bunnings-timber-price-lists/

It would certainly be interesting to know the details of the business model the Hoop pine plantation owner uses to maximise returns to the company. Just exactly how profitable are these plantations to the owner? This price list gives us few clues.

If any readers have Hoop pine growing I’d love to hear your stories. Send us a comment.

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Select Grade Blackwood Timber for >$10,000 per cubic metre!

Wandering around the internet and here’s the first blackwood timber price list for the new year. This price list is for dressed select grade blackwood timber from a timber retailer in Sydney.trenddbwd

It contains a limited range of sizes.

It also contains little by way of volumetric price increases with increasing timber size to reflect the fact that larger dimension timber can only come from larger trees which take longer to grow and therefore should cost more.

What is shown here are select grade blackwood volumetric prices for the first time getting well into the 5 figures!!

I wonder when Tasmanian farmers will begin to take notice?

Blackwood Timber Price List Summary 2016

It’s a year since I started down the road looking at sawn timber retail prices in Australia.

Part of the reason is the lack of publically available market-based stumpage prices for blackwood.

What I have found is blackwood timber pricing that is all over the place.

Here’s a summary of the four timber price lists I have found so far.

BPL1

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2015/10/19/blackwood-pricing-and-the-forest-industry-1/

Here we have Select grade blackwood selling for the same price as Radiata pine at Bunnings Hardware, and with no price premium for larger dimension timber.

I hate to think what the grower of this blackwood got paid for their logs!

Blackwood doesn’t have a future at these prices.

abpl0916

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2015/10/26/blackwood-pricing-and-the-forest-industry-2/

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/09/12/blackwood-timber-price-rises-by-15/

This price list looks much better. It even has a modest 5.8% price premium for sizes above 25mm. And with the recent 15% price increase we are beginning to rival global premium timber prices.

If this was the standard retail price for Select grade blackwood we might get some investor interest.

BPL3KD

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2015/11/09/price-list-from-hell-revised/

This price list seems very confused. It offers a price premium for both small and large dimension timber (width), but this premium decreases with increasing timber thickness!?

A huge ranges of sizes are offered, in two length classes.

However these prices equate to Select Grade Tas Oak prices at Bunning. These prices are not those for a premium timber species.

Yet another road to blackwood ruin.

HydrowoodBWD

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/08/03/hydrowood-blackwood-prices-at-uptons/

And finally we have retail prices for Hydrowood blackwood, which are much cheaper than Tas Oak at Bunnings.

Bargain basement salvage blackwood timber designed to destroy the blackwood industry.

In summary we have kiln dried select grade blackwood timber available from $2,500 to over $8,500 per cubic metre, with most price lists setting no price premium for larger dimension timber. In one case there is a negative premium for large dimension timber!

It’s complete market chaos!

With so much taxpayer-subsidised blackwood in the marketplace it’s impossible to know what the real market price for blackwood timber is.

It is certainly not a growers market, and if growers can’t make any money then blackwood doesn’t have much of a future.

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

This is what happens when Government and industry policy dictates that the forest industry must be a community service and not a business.

Blackwood Timber Price Rises by 15%

One retailer has recently increased the price of their blackwood timber by 15% or $1100 per cubic metre!!

Here’s a chart showing the old and new prices:

abpl0916

There’s no explanation given by the retailer for the price rise.

Is it due to declining supply, rising demand, or increasing costs of production? Or is it a combination of these factors?

Is the price increase likely to affect existing or potential growers?

If forestry operated under normal market conditions then a timber price increase of 15% would cause a significant response in the marketplace.

Under normal markets farmers would be doing their calculations and deciding if and how much to invest in growing commercial blackwood.

A 15% price increase should be stimulating new blackwood planting.

But forestry in Australia does not operate under normal market conditions. In fact forestry avoids “normal markets”. Using market forces to generate new investment is fundamental to any business.

Without my detective work these price increases would be largely unknown.

By way of comparison here’s a chart showing the price list for imported American Black Walnut offered by the same retailer:

abwpl0916

Black Walnut is regarded as one of America’s premium appearance grade timbers. Most supply of this timber comes from private native forest owners in the eastern and mid-west United States, although some Americans are growing this species in plantations.

So this retailer at least regards blackwood as being on par with the finest hardwoods in the world.

So why isn’t that message (and the price) making its way back through the marketplace to help stimulate supportive policy and investment?

Hydrowood blackwood prices at Uptons

HWs.jpg

It’s time for another blackwood timber market price review, this time courtesy of Hydrowood and Uptons.

http://hydrowood.com.au/news/hydrowood-now-available-at-uptons/

http://uptons.net.au/

My previous price list reviews have generally not named the suppliers, but in this instance I think I need too since Hydrowood is likely to be the major supplier of premium grade blackwood timber for the next 5 to 10+ years. Hydrowood will therefore set the price ceiling for quite some time.

Go here to read my reviews of other blackwood (and other species) timber price lists:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/category/price-lists/

Here are the current prices are for Hydrowood blackwood from Uptons:

HydrowoodBWD

These prices are for rough-sawn, kiln-dried blackwood timber.

It’s a curious price list for a number of reasons.

Firstly there are only two grades of Hydrowood blackwood – fiddleback and everything else! The price for select (clear) grade is the same as for natural (knotty& defective)!!

The other curious feature (and I’ve discussed this in relation to other timber price lists) is the lack of price increase (per cubic metre) with increasing piece size. Whilst you can cut large trees into small pieces of wood the reverse is not true. You can only cut large dimension timber from bigger, older trees. And bigger, older trees cost more time and money to grow. Therefore larger dimension timber should attract a higher per cubic metre price to reflect the higher cost to the grower.

Of course there isn’t a “grower” in this case, but given that the owner of this resource (the Tasmanian Government) isn’t charging any royalties, and Hydrowood are a dominant supplier in the blackwood market, this creates significant pricing distortions in the marketplace.

But there’s the thing. These prices bear no relationship to the cost of growing the wood. This is salvage timber from the bottom of hydro lakes. No forest management costs, no roading costs, no expensive forest practices plans, no royalties paid to the Government!

This is low cost blackwood.

In that regard it shares much with Forestry Tasmania the other major producer of blackwood. Forestry Tasmania produces blackwood at below cost and receives a direct taxpayer subsidy for doing so.

If we want to encourage and develop a profitable sustainable forest industry then this isn’t the way to do it!

This blackwood is even cheaper than Select grade Tas Oak at Bunnings!!

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/07/01/bunnings-timber-price-lists/

The other interesting feature of the Hydrowood price list is that there are only three pricing structures for all of their species/products, of which two are shown in the above chart.

The Natural/Select Blackwood pricing is shared with plain Myrtle, or what Hydrowood calls Western Beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii), and Tas Oak (Eucalyptus sp.)!! The fiddleback blackwood pricing structure is shared with Black Heart Sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum), Huon pine (Lagarostrobos franklinii), Marine-grade Celery Top Pine (Phyllocladus aspleniifolius), and flame-grain Myrtle/Western Beech. An intermediate pricing of $5,900 per cubic metre is applied to all Knotty Celery Top pine and plain coloured Sassafras.

Of course the impact of these pricing structures on the future of the other (non-blackwood) species is irrelevant. These other slow-growing species do not provide any investment opportunities. But farmers can invest in growing commercial blackwood provided that markets are working properly, and Government and industry policy is supportive.

No chance of that here in Tasmania.

This is the fourth blackwood timber price list I have reviewed and what these price lists show is a blackwood marketplace in disarray. Blackwood prices are all over the place, from cheaper than radiata pine, to prices that rival the most expensive premium timbers in the world!

If you were wondering whether to invest in growing commercial blackwood then this marketplace would not provide you with any confidence. I wish I could say that these prices clearly demonstrate the viability of growing commercial blackwood but I can’t.

These blackwood timber price lists do not reflect the cost of growing the wood. Nor do they reflect an industry that has a vision for its future. Instead they remind me more of a closing down sale!

They reflect an industry that has lost hope, and is now in a desperate race to the bottom.

Without a solid commercial foundation the forest industry doesn’t have a future.

So now you know where to get your cheap premium blackwood timber.

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?

 

Bunnings Timber Price Lists

Bunnings is the largest hardware chain in Australia. When Australians think of timber they think of Bunnings. Bunnings sets the baseline when it comes to timber prices.

https://www.bunnings.com.au/

Bunnings two main timbers are Tasmanian Oak and Radiata pine. If you want timber other than these species you need to go to a specialist timber retailer. But Bunnings don’t show their prices on a per cubic metre basis, so I’ve done the homework.

Firstly the price list for kiln-dried, dressed, Select Grade Tas Oak as at June 2016:

BunningsTOak0616

Tasmanian oak is a native forest hardwood tree, so the costs of growing Tas oak are considerable in terms of management, regulation, roading, harvesting and transport. Most Tas Oak comes from public native forests managed by Forestry Tasmania. Forestry Tasmania is NOT run as a fully commercial profit-driven business, and has received considerable taxpayer subsidies over many years.

So these prices do not reflect the actual cost of growing the timber.

Prices range between $5,500 and $8,500 per cubic metre, with something of a trend of increasing prices for larger dimension timber to (perhaps) reflect the increased cost (to the taxpayer) of growing bigger, older trees.

Next is the price list for Radiata pine.

Radiata pine is a highly domesticated plantation-grown tree species, where scale, volume and efficiency dominate the market. It is grown primarily for the construction and pulp markets. The pine market is extremely competitive so these prices should accurately reflect the dynamic between supply and demand and the cost of production.

The other point to be made here is that Radiata pine must represent the absolute cheapest that solid wood of any kind can be commercially grown. It’s the bargain basement of solid wood prices.

The price list is for Standard grade pine, with Premium clearwood prices shown in yellow.

BunningsPine0616

Growing Premium grade, knot-free pine requires thinning and pruning the plantations at significant cost compared to growing Standard grade, hence the higher price for Premium grade pine.

Does the 100% markup per cubic metre for the Premium pine make it more profitable for the grower? I hope so!

Prices for the Standard Grade pine range between $1,100 and $3,500, whilst Premium grade ranges between $2,400 and $3,500 per cubic metre for a limited range of sizes.

And here we have a retailer selling blackwood for the same price as radiata pine:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2015/10/19/blackwood-pricing-and-the-forest-industry-1/

It’s completely insane!

According to Bunnings Select grade Tasmanian oak is 2.5 to 5.2 times more valuable than Standard grade radiata pine (when comparing the same sizes), and 1.7 to 2.6 times more valuable than Premium pine.

Given that Tas Oak is much slower growing than pine and is a native forest species (ie. higher cost of production, lower productivity), one would think that a 2x times price premium can in no way reflect the relative costs of production!

No wonder then that our native forest industry is in such trouble with give-away prices like these.

Also given that Tasmanian oak is not generally regarded as a premium appearance grade timber and is relatively abundant, what would be the relative price of select grade blackwood, which is regarded as a premium timber and is relative scarce? Would it be 3.0 times the price of Premium grade pine, ie. $7,500 per cubic metre? Or 2.0 times the price of Select grade Tasmanian oak, ie. $12,000 per cubic metre?

Surely Tasmanian blackwood timber should be priced well above Tasmanian oak!!

For my previous reviews of timber (including blackwood) price lists see here:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/category/price-lists/

The Ultimate (Australian) Timber Price List

ARCPL

Now here is a timber price list to get the heart racing.

Australian Red Cedar (Toona ciliata) was once the premium appearance grade timber species in Australia. From the first days of European invasion to about the time of the First World War (140 years), this timber was chased from every pocket of rainforest up and down the east coast of Australia.

Many books have been written about this species and its history/exploitation. One fine example is:

John Vader (1987) Red Cedar: The Tree of Australia’s History. Reed Books, Sydney, NSW.

Much research and many attempts have been made to try and domesticate the species for growing in plantation. But the dreaded Cedar Tip Moth is a powerful and persistent enemy.

Australian Red Cedar is now commercially extinct, but limited quantities are sometimes available from salvaged trees.

It is a curious price list in that prices per cubic metre remain unchanged at between $8,000 and $10,000 per cubic metre for thicknesses up to 50mm.

Even for a rare and much sought-after timber these prices are not that extraordinary.

This flat pricing structure is typical of salvage timber where the price does not reflect the cost of growing the trees. Salvage timber is just a case of whatever comes along, big or small, long or short. There is no incentive/reward to the grower to replant.

But once you get into the large sizes, prices up to $17,100 per cubic metre definitely get the heart racing.

No wonder so much effort has been made trying to grow this tree commercially.

After the First World War the supplies of Australian Red cedar dropped dramatically and Tasmanian blackwood became Australia’s premier appearance grade timber species. It too is now on the verge of becoming commercially extinct due to overcutting of the public blackwood resource and decades of poor forest policy.

At these prices I’m surprised there is not more interest from investors and landowners in growing premium timber.

Isn’t this a business/investment opportunity going begging?

Will prices for Tasmanian blackwood soon resemble these prices for Australian Red Cedar?

For more information on blackwood and other timber price lists see:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/category/price-lists/