New Zealand log exports hit a new record last year, exporting $2.41 billion of softwood logs in the first 11 months of 2017, surpassing all previous records for a full year, according to Statistics New Zealand.
75 per cent of these exports—worth $1.81 Bn—went to China, which has banned forest harvesting and reduced tariffs on imports to meet demand.
However, the figures have raised concerns which industry insiders say pose a threat to future timber supply. It also undermines efforts to add more value to exports.
Industry starts this year were upbeat with the new coalition government’s commitment to re-establish the Forest Service, plant more trees, focus on regional economic development, require greater scrutiny of overseas investment in forestry, and change the Emissions Trading Scheme.
“We are certainly on the radar now with the government very much pushing in the right direction,” Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association chief executive Jon Tanner said.
Yet he also expressed uncertainty about the shorter-term issue of more unprocessed logs heading overseas.
Other wood exporting countries, such as Canada and Russia, support local industries while Chinese wood manufacturers benefit from subsidies, creating an uneven playing field for New Zealand processors, according to the WPMA. It is lobbying for the government raise the case to the World Trade Organisation.