Annual Timber Harvest
Since 1994-95, PFT has annually collected and collated quantitative data on the private estate harvest in order to track the contribution that the private forest estate makes to the supply of conventional forest products to the Tasmanian forestry sector. Summarised data is made available to government and other stakeholders and is an important reflection of the contribution the private estate makes to employment and wealth generation throughout regional Tasmania and the State as a whole.
The collection of this information is entirely dependent on the co-operation and goodwill of others - in this case the many forest products processors throughout the State who willingly participate by providing PFT with sourcing information for their forest products intake. PFT acknowledges the participation of these processors and is proud of the relationship of trust that has been developed between us and the many companies and individuals involved. Importantly, the processors provide this information to PFT on the understanding that the raw data will be aggregated for reporting purposes and that the confidentiality of each individual processor’s data will be strictly maintained. It is important to remember that the provision of the data is on a voluntary basis and while PFT cannot control the accuracy of it steps are taken to ensure it is as accurate as possible.
Of the 50 individual forest products processing businesses throughout the State contacted this year, 43 responded to the request for data on log products harvested from private forests that were delivered to their mills. The seven that did not respond are very small operators and any private forest harvest they may have processed is considered to have no real effect on the overall results. Eighteen of the responding processors reported that they did not receive logs from private forests during 2016-17. Two processors are expected to merge during the 2017-18 year which will reduce the number of primary processors operating in Tasmania to 49. One primary processor reported in the 2015-16 annual report is no longer considered a primary processor.
The six largest volume businesses processed almost 97% of Tasmania’s private forest harvest during 2016-17. When the next two are included, the proportion is just over 99%.
Wood Production Statistics
This year, the total private forest harvest rose well beyond historic levels (Figure 1) increasing 32% from 2015-16 to supply 3.89 million tonnes of logs to the market. This increase follows on from the large increase of 48.5% from 2014-15 to 2015-16 and continues the trend of increasing production that commenced from the record low of 2011-12 (1.11 million tonnes). Levels of production in 2016-17 were the highest achieved since 1994-95 (when PFT began collecting data) being 0.71 million tonnes (22%) higher than the previous high in 1999-00 (3.19 million tonnes).
The increase in production primarily comprised logs sourced from hardwood plantations. However, there was also a significant increase in the supply of logs from softwood plantations. Increases in log supply from plantations more than offset a minor decrease in logs sourced from native forests.
The opening of the Macquarie Wharf log export facility provided much needed market options for the south of the State and contributed to increases in log exports, together with increases from northern ports. Importantly, the Macquarie Wharf facility added value to some forest areas that had become of marginal economic value after the closure of the Triabunna export facility in 2011.
The dominance of the plantation based sector continues with logs supplied from plantations comprising 96% of the total Tasmanian private forest harvest, the highest proportion recorded to date (Figure 2). Plantation logs have comprised >90% of the Tasmanian private forest harvest since 2012-13 having steadily risen from 15% in 1994-95.
At 154,000 tonnes, the private native forest harvest fell by 9% when compared to 2015-16, but is still well above that achieved in previous years (Figure 1). Furthermore, it remains a fraction of the record of 2.6 million tonnes produced in 1999-00 – a production level unlikely to ever be achieved again. 2016-17 saw decreases in harvest quantities of sawlog and veneer log of 13% and pulp log of 6% when compared to that achieved in 2015-16.
There is no doubt that the private native forest estate has considerable potential for higher levels of sustainable production that, together with the flourishing plantation sector, would further contribute to the social and economic well-being of regional communities in particular and the Tasmanian economy more generally.
Harvesting of hardwood plantations increased significantly, reaching a new high in 2016-17 (Figure 1) of 2.46 million tonnes – an increase of 37% from 2015-16. This follows an 89% increase in the previous year. In particular, levels of production for sawlog, veneer and plywood increased markedly by 0.29m tonnes (409%), and for pulpwood by 0.38m tonnes (22%) when compared to 2015-16.
The large increase in sawlog, veneer and ply log predominantly comprised export logs, with only 1,600 tonnes sawn or peeled domestically.
An increase in hardwood plantation harvest was anticipated last year due to the increased processing capacity bought on-line in northern Tasmania resulting from the finalisation of the Gunns asset
s sale. This increased capacity has underpinned a resumption of appropriate harvesting levels for the maturing plantation estate and facilitated the harvesting of the backlog of plantations that accumulated during the 5 year period prior to the asset sale. Furthermore, options to sell plantation hardwoods from the south of the State through Macquarie Wharf, that were bought online in 2016-17, contributed to overall increased production.
A further modest increase in log supply from hardwood plantations is expected next year achieving what may be a long term sustainable yield of approximately 2.5 million tonnes. While there is now an obvious commitment by plantation managers to replant productive plantation sites there can be no doubt that some areas of uneconomic (ex-MIS) plantations are unlikely to be replanted. This may cause fluctuations in the sustainable yield of the estate in the future but the impact is difficult to predict at this time.
The private softwood harvest increased significantly in 2016-17, by 0.29 million tonnes (30%) to 1.27 million tonnes (Figure 1). This production level is in line with what is thought to be the long term sustainable yield of the private softwood estate. The increase is attributed to increased output from existing ports and processing facilities in conjunction with output from the new export facility for southern Tasmania at Macquarie Wharf.
Contribution to Overall Tasmanian Forestry Production
By combining production statistics for the State owned forests (provided by Sustainable Timbers Tasmania) with the private estate figures detailed above, we can estimate the annual contribution of the private forest estate to total state forestry production. In 2012-13 the private estate, for the first time, contributed more than half (58%) of the State’s total wood harvest. The contribution remained at this level until 2014-15. In 2015-16 the contribution increased significantly to two thirds (67%) of Tasmania’s wood harvest, which was maintained in 2015-16. In 2016-17 the private forest estate’s contribution increased even further - to 73% - confirming the estate’s dominance in the market place and its immense strategic importance to Tasmania’s forest products sector.
Table 2: Private forest harvest volumes 2012-13 to 2016-17 (tonnes)
Figure 1: Private forests harvest volumes 1994-95 to 2016-17 (including fuel wood)
Figure 2: Native forest and plantation (softwood and hardwood) harvest from private forests 1994-95 to 2016-17