Forest and wood statistics show increased demand abroad, softening domestic demand

Export value grows
Export value grows

The Australian forest and wood products statistics: March and June quarters 2017 report released on November 7 shows the industry is in its fourth consecutive year of growth.

Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences executive director, Steve Hatfield-Dodds, said the volume of logs harvested in 2016-17 was estimated to have reached record levels.

“The value of total logs harvested was up nearly 12 per cent to $2.5 billion, reflecting increased estimated softwood log prices and softer hardwood log prices,” Mr Hatfield-Dodds said.

“Exports of Australia’s wood products are higher than ever, reaching a record $3.4 billion on the back of strong demand for roundwood, newsprint and miscellaneous forest products exports.”

He said Australia’s trade deficit in wood products was at its lowest level in six years.

“The report finds the Chinese market accounted for the majority of total wood product export growth in 2016−17,” Mr Hatfield-Dodds said.

“This report highlights that forestry activities remain dependent on key markets and particularly housing and international trade.

“Developments in these sectors will continue to influence the direction of investment and output in Australia’s forestry sector.”

Despite the good news, the report highlighted a softening domestic demand due to lower dwelling commencements.

“After four consecutive years of growth in residential construction activity in Australia, the total number of dwelling commencements decreased in 2016–17,” the report stated.

“The total number of dwelling commencements fell by 6.1 per cent from 233,600 to 219,300. This softening in growth was driven mostly by decreases in the number of new other residential buildings, including units and house conversions, which fell by 10.2 per cent from Australian forest and wood products statistics.

“The number of house commencements also decreased by 2.1 per cent from 116,300 to 114,000.”

The value of wood product imports also fell by 4 per cent in 2016–17 to $5.3 billion following three years of consecutive growth.

“Reduced import values of paper and paperboard and miscellaneous forest products contributed mainly to the overall decrease in imports,” the report stated.