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Increasing lumber exports leads to new technology investment

Increasing lumber exports leads to new technology investment

Signs are good right now for the country’s wood processing industry. A report from Wood Resources International last week said that although over 50% of the wood harvest in New Zealand is being exported as logs, lumber production had picked up by about ten percent over the last three years.

Shipments from New Zealand into the US market have in fact gone up 37% over just the past four years and during the first five months of 2017. The U.S. has now overtaken Australia as the number one export destination for pine lumber produced in New Zealand. In terms of value, New Zealand is now the second largest overseas lumber supplier into the US, behind Chile, but still ahead of lumber exporters from Europe.

Even better news is that the US market is expected to grow even further. The International WOOD MARKETS Group reports that rising consumer confidence; high builder optimism; historically low interest rates and tight inventory levels of both new and existing housing in the U.S. are all strong indicators supporting new housing starts. After a long period of underbuilding and price recovery, U.S. housing starts are forecasted to grow by seven per cent per year in 2017 and 2018.

The impact of duties on Canadian lumber exports into the U.S. is also going to be a game-changer for lumber exporters to the U.S. Through the new duties, Canadian exports to the U.S. are expected to drop by 10 to 15 per cent in 2018 from 2016. Because of growing demand and drop-offs in lumber being supplied out of Canada, the U.S. is expected to look for lumber elsewhere -from Europe and from the Southern Hemisphere. This in turn means higher prices are anticipated for both logs and lumber.

For New Zealand sawmills to meet rising log costs, to remain internationally competitive and to gear up for increased exports into markets like the U.S., many are now investing in new sawmilling technology.

The world's most advanced sawmill and the first "super-mill" in the Southern Hemisphere, Red Stag Timber in Rotorua for example opened recently. Having invested over NZ$100 million, it has the capacity to now process more than one million tonnes of logs per year. At the other end of the country, Japanese-owned Pan Pac Forest Products has just completed a NZ$24million redevelopment of its Milburn sawmill. Other mills around the country are likewise looking at increasing their production, investing in automation and looking at new equipment.

To assist local mills evaluate the very latest in sawmilling technologies, specialist tech event organisers, the Forest Industry Engineering Association (FIEA) is running WoodTECH 2017. It’s a two-yearly programme of tailored presentations from global technology leaders, trade exhibitions and practical workshops which runs in Rotorua on 26-27 September.

“It’s a who’s who of international saws and sawmilling technology who will be travelling into Australasia” says Brent Apthorp, FIEA Director. “We already have over 20 of North America’s leading technology providers, a significant number of European sawmilling equipment suppliers together with local innovators involved in the WoodTECH 2017 series”.

“What makes 2017 special is the series of workshops that this time have been set up for local sawmills” says Mr. Apthorp. “For the first time, a series of practical troubleshooting workshops have been designed for a much wider cross section of sawmill production and operational staff. They’ll be providing an insight into how local sawmills can extract the very best performance out of their saws and sawing operations”.

In addition to showcasing new sawmilling technologies at WoodTECH 2017, another one-day conference is being run the day after WoodTECH 2017 on 28 September titled, “Changing Perceptions of Engineered Timber in Construction”. “The week of planned activities will be providing a unique showcase of new production and construction technologies for wood producers, wood suppliers and wood users throughout the country.

Information links:
WoodTECH 2017 Conference & Exhibitions – Wood Scanning, Sawing, Optimisation, 26-27 September, Rotorua, www.woodtech.events

Changing Perceptions Conference – Advantages of Timber in Midrise Construction – 28 September, Rotorua, www.cpetc2017.com


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