Category Archives: Price Lists

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/

Price List from Hell Revised

Ok I need to check the fine print!

My original assessment of this sellers blackwood price list was pretty harsh.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2015/11/04/another-blackwood-price-list-from-hell/

But when I read the fine print about kiln-drying costs and length price premiums, things don’t look quite so bad.

Here’s what the revised price list looks like when kiln drying costs are included and the 30% length price premium is added.

These prices are for rough-sawn kiln-dried select grade blackwood.

BPL3KD

Excluding the 25×19 size blackwood, the average price for the kiln-dried blackwood for lengths up to 4.8 metres is $5,500 per cubic metre, and $7,100 per cubic metre for lengths over 4.8 metres.

I think these are good starting prices for the smaller size boards. But the price list still excludes the cost of time to grow the larger trees from which the bigger boards must be sawn.

This price list still tells us that larger older trees are cheaper to grow than smaller younger trees! This is the complete opposite of reality!!

The fact that the price list includes a significant price premium for length BUT NOT for width and thickness is illogical. There is a small price premium for increasing width and thickness but it declines with increasing size. This is what the linear trendline shows.

This price list tells the marketplace that growing commercial blackwood is potentially profitable (especially if the grower does their own sawmilling and drying), but not the growing of larger older trees.

The objective in a commercial blackwood plantation is to produce 6 metre long sawlogs hence potentially attracting the 30% length price premium.

So what do these sawn blackwood prices mean for blackwood growers and the future of the blackwood industry?

Another blackwood price list from Hell

Here’s another example of a blackwood timber retail price list from Hell.

No I haven’t made this up! This is for real!!

This seller is working really hard to destroy the blackwood industry.

BPL3

Not only is this blackwood incredibly cheap (cheaper than Radiata pine), but the blackwood grower is actually being punished for growing large trees. I’ve added a linear trendline to the cubic metre price data to show how the cubic metre price drops as the timber size increases.

You can only cut large size timber from larger older trees. Larger older trees cost time and money to grow.

This seller is screaming to the marketplace:

don’t anyone bother growing blackwood timber, and you will certainly be punished if you grow large blackwood trees.

No wonder the forest industry in Tasmania is in such diabolical trouble. Some people in the industry have absolutely no idea about the economics of forestry and the marketplace.

The fact that the State Government and the dominant blackwood grower, Forestry Tasmania, regards growing blackwood as a taxpayer-funded community service certainly doesn’t help!

It’s a unique price list because it has a price premium for the smaller width boards (≤75mm) presumably to reflect the extra cost in sawing these smaller sizes, AND another price premium for the wider boards (≥200mm). But thicker boards become progressively cheaper. It makes no sense!

I would love to know the logic behind this pricing or see the sawing cost/recovery data.

Australia’s premier appearance grade timber sold at $2,000 per cubic metre is give-away prices. Yes it is green and not kiln dried blackwood timber but kiln drying is not that expensive.

The Tasmanian blackwood industry has no future while the forest industry continues this kind of behaviour.

Does anyone care?

The last comment on this price list is the incredible range of sizes available, up to a whopping 300x100mm. That is a mega-slab of blackwood timber! And so ridiculously cheap!!

See my previous blogs on blackwood pricing here:

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

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

 

Blackwood pricing and the forest industry #2

In the previous blog on blackwood prices I discussed some of the issues around blackwood pricing and markets using an actual blackwood price list “from hell”.

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

Here I present some better examples of timber price lists including another real blackwood price list, but this one should definitely stir some interest from existing and potential growers.

This retail blackwood price list exhibits both excellent overall prices from a grower and sawmillers viewpoint, but also includes allowance for the cost of time it takes to grow bigger trees to produce the larger size boards. Hence the 5.8% “step-up” in the price per cubic metre for the 38mm and 50mm thick boards. I’m assuming of course that this pricing structure reflects in some degree what was paid to the growers, with larger logs attracting better prices than smaller logs.

Remember that Tasmanian blackwood is Australia’s premium appearance grade timber species.

BPL2

By way of comparison here is a price list for American Cherry (Prunus serotina) from the same retailer. American Cherry is regarded as the number one premium appearance timber in the USA. Almost all American Cherry is grown in native forest by a vast number of small private forest growers, so the markets are very competitive. These prices therefore are likely to accurately reflect real market conditions, including grower profitability. The same certainly can’t be said for Tasmanian blackwood.

I’ve made both the blackwood and the cherry charts are on the same scales to allow for easy comparison.

ACPL

Notice the cherry price list has two step-ups in the cubic metre price (4.9 and 8.8%, with the over increase of 14.1%) to reflect the three timber thickness grades, and the cost of time needed to grow larger trees to produce the bigger boards.

By way of comparison Premium clear grade Radiata pine retails for about $2,500 per cubic metre.

So if retailers and sawmillers (but not the growers) are making money selling blackwood at $2,500 per cubic metre, surely at $7,000+ per cubic metre there is plenty of potential for growers to be rewarded sufficiently to consider commercial blackwood as a profitable investment.

Much more than any other primary industry, forestry relies upon growers getting a fair deal and a good price, otherwise the forest industry has no future. A 30+ year investment to grow trees involves an exceptional amount of goodwill, trust and fair play in the marketplace. So far the forest industry does not have a good reputation in this regard.

The only other option is for growers to do the harvesting, sawmilling, and selling themselves. A Growers Cooperative then becomes the natural result of this outcome. But this still requires the marketplace to provide price and demand signals.

Both the blackwood and cherry price lists potentially provide incentive and reward/profit to forest growers to produce these beautiful premium timbers, as well as recognise and encourage the growing of large trees to produce the large wide boards that the market demands. These are the just rewards of time, patience, good forest/plantation management and a forest industry/marketplace working together to build a future.

The private American Cherry growers keep managing their native forest and growing and selling their Cherry timber.

But what about the growers of Tasmanian blackwood?

 

It is an interesting footnote that Tasmanian taxpayers pay to have public native blackwood forest logged (Forestry Tasmania deliberately makes a loss) in order that approximately $40,000,000 worth of blackwood timber and veneer is sold every year. Why does blackwood need to be subsidised?

 

Blackwood pricing and the forest industry #1

Having had a few discussions recently about blackwood prices and price lists I have begun to investigate this aspect of the forest industry and the marketplace. Pricing a commodity that takes 20-100+ years to grow requires stepping outside the realms of normal economic theory. And when you are a retailer and not a grower, are you rewarding and motivating the grower, or are you killing the forest industry?

What the market is prepared to pay, product substitution and technology become critical issues. This is particularly true in the wood commodity markets such as pulp, paper and construction which accounts for the lion’s share of the wood market.

But what about the premium end of the wood market where wood quality and appearance are fundamental aspects of the market? This market exhibits a significant degree of inelasticity (with a high capacity to pay), and a resistance to product substitution, as well as technological change. This is the market that Tasmanian blackwood inhabits.

From a blackwood growers viewpoint, how does pricing affect grower behaviour? Most premium timbers around the world come from (public and private) native forests. Few premium timbers are grown in plantations. Economic management and performance of native forests is quite different to growing timber in plantations. Compared to native forests plantations have high establishment and management costs, with little or no income from the investment until harvest in 20-30+ years time. As a straight investment this requires careful planning and management in order to achieve a reasonable profit from the investment (not to mention a great deal of passion and patience).

So what does the marketplace tell us about the economics of growing trees for premium quality wood production?

Here’s an example of a real blackwood price list of dimensions and prices per linear metre. I then calculated the price per cubic metre for each of the dimensions and made a chart of the results. The prices are for kiln-dried rough-sawn (KDRS) clear-grade blackwood.

I was horrified!

This pricing and pricing structure will kill the blackwood industry stone dead!!

Firstly I don’t know too much about the costs of regulation, harvesting, transport and sawmilling, but I suspect the growers of this blackwood got bugger all for their trees.

If the retailer is selling blackwood for $AU2,500 per cubic metre regardless of size, what did they pay the sawmiller? And after paying the costs of planning, harvesting, transport and sawmilling, what did the sawmiller pay the poor growers? I reckon the growers got the clear message that growing commercial blackwood is for mugs and losers!

Instead of providing incentive and reward for their blackwood growing efforts the marketplace punished these growers.

So do we want the forest industry to have a future?

It won’t have a future with this retail pricing!

Do we want to be able to buy blackwood timber in the future?

There wont be any to harvest if these prices continue?

I don’t know where in Tasmania the blackwood timber came from but it wasn’t plantation grown. It could be public or private native forest; meaning these trees were between 40 and 80 years old when harvested.

BPL1

The second failing of this price list is the complete absence of the cost of “time”.

Time costs money. That’s what interest rates are all about. They represent the cost of money over time – for either loans or investments.

In general the price of timber reflects the volume/size of the piece of wood. The greater the dimensions and length the greater the price. The above pricing structure would be fine IF blackwood was produced in a factory where the ingredients were fed into one end of a machine and the various sizes and lengths came out the other end, with little time involved in production.

Unfortunately blackwood timber grows on trees and trees take time to grow, and time costs money. The bigger the piece of timber the bigger the tree required, and the longer it takes to grow, and greater the cost to the grower/investor.

But the above pricing list says that size (and hence time) has no cost. Wrong!!

The above list says that a cubic metre of 25x25mm costs the same to grow/produce as a cubic metre of 125x125mm. Wrong!!

You can cut 25x25mm timber from young 30 cm diameter trees, but you need much older 60+ cm diameter trees to produce 200×50 mm or 125x125mm blackwood.

A common complaint in the premium timber market is the scarcity of wide boards. However the above price list fails to provide any incentive/reward to the grower to grow bigger older trees.

A common caveat in the premium timber market goes something like:

Availability of specific sizes and lengths cannot be guaranteed.

This is largely due to the wood being sourced from native forest where tree size and supply are relatively random. In forestry lingo it’s called “run of the bush” – whatever turns up.

Plantations however are highly controlled and managed, so that (if things work out) size and supply can be better managed. A bit of tree selection and breeding and wood quality and supply is more assured. No caveats required.

So if you want to contribute to the destruction of Tasmania’s iconic blackwood industry here’s the place to buy your timber. It’s a double whammy for the industry!

But if you want to support a profitable, sustainable forest industry then understand that time (and big trees) costs money!

Alternatively this price list may just reflect the fact that in Tasmania growing blackwood is according to Government policy a (taxpayer-funded if you are a public grower) community service not a business. These may just be community service prices, not real prices reflecting the cost of production let alone building and growing the industry.

In my next blog on blackwood pricing I’ll show an example of a better timber pricing structure together with much more realistic prices.

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?

Comments and ideas welcome!!