Commercial timber plantation stock stands at 1.8 million hectares in 2019-20 according to statistics released in a report that shows the softwood estate remained relatively stable at about one million hectares.
However, the hardwood estate declined by about 200,000 hectares compared to the previous report estimate released in 2014-15.
Annual softwood log availability is forecast to decline from an average of 17 million cubic meters over the period from 2015 to 2019 to approximately 15 million cubic meters a year over the period from 2020 to 2024.
The lower projected softwood production is due to a range of reasons including the bushfires in the summer of 2019-20 and the age of the trees in the ground. Softwood plantations are based on a 30-year rotation so planting trees now won’t increase wood supply for some time to come.
However, it is expected that wood supply to gradually recover out to 2050. By 2035 to 2039 the industry is projecting softwood production to be about 18.5 million cubic meters, off the back of replanting and productivity gains. If realised this would be a record.
There could be an average of 2.8 million cubic meters more softwood sawlogs a year available over the period from 2035 to 2039 compared to the average annual harvest over the period from 2015 to 2019.
For hardwood plantations, the reduction in the estate is expected to have a relatively small impact on projected hardwood availability.
Most of the removed hardwood plantations were low yielding or far from processing or export facilities, so converting them to another use has had minimal impact on projected supply.
The industry is also seeing a slight shift for both softwood and hardwood from lower value pulplog production to higher value sawlog production. For example, some plantation managers have been successful in finding new markets for saw and veneer logs.