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China Trip Report

Peter Clark and Peter Weblin travelled to China in mid March to visit log purchasers, ports and log processing facilities. We were impressed with the highly efficient way logs are received and handled in China and the developing focus on value-added higher end uses. Rather than bore readers with waffly text, we present below some interesting photos taken along the way, with some, hopefully, interesting snippits of information.

 

All logs are re-measured by government customs agencies in Chinese m³ (note the diameter written on the end of the log's small end diameter). The logs are then sold to local log processors by the Chinese m³ scale in local currency RMB. Typically the Chinese m³ scale is 1.05 to 1.15 higher than the New Zealand JAS m³ scale and this is part of the calculation that gives the Chinese wholesaler a profit (or loss). A possible vision for the future would be one international scale system recognised by both sellers and buyers and which could eliminate a lot of duplicated effort.

 

 

Logs supplied by PF Olsen being taken from port to a local sawmill in Shanghai.

 

A fumigation facility at Taicang port just north of Shanghai. North American logs can leave their home port, land at Taicang and be fumigated prior to going to market. Vision for the future: if New Zealand logs had the same status shipments could go direct to China from South Island ports without the need to finish at Tauranga or Marsden Point, (currently needed for fumigation of the deck log cargo).

 

Proud sawmill owner near Taicang port in front of a pile of logs from New Zealand.

 

This slab-wood fetches the equivalent of NZ$84/tonne, much more than the value in New Zealand. Bark and sawdust is also recovered and sold. Sawn recover is in excess of 60%, higher than achieved in most NZ mills. This alters the perception of shipping logs being inefficient. The Chinese see a whole log as high value lumber packaged in high-value slab wood, sawdust and bark, all of which is meticulously collected and sold.

 

PF Olsen-supplied logs being sawn in sawmill near Tiacang port.

 

Sawing is highly manual. Each bandsaw line employs 7-8 workers. We were told sawing costs are equivalent to NZ$15/m³ of sawn lumber but wage inflation running around 15% per annum is putting pressure on this very low conversion cost. In contrast sawing costs in NZ are around $65/m³.

 

All the unloading of logs we saw was by impressive shore-based cranes. In contrast, logs are loaded in NZ via the ship's cranes.

 

Construction cranes fill the skyline around expanding and new cities. Most buildings are constructed of concrete and steel but we were told that each apartment block uses about 300 m³ of construction-support wooden products (lumber and ply). The vision is to get Radiata pine into the interior fit outs as well.

 

We were blown away to see two Radiata pine show homes being built by Shandong Lichen Group (Lichen) at Lanshan. Not only are the frames Radiata pine, almost the whole house is Radiata pine. Lichen is passionate about NZ Radiata pine and is doing impressive things with conversion and market development.

 

More Radiata pine construction – outdoor structures. We observed some preservative ground treatment, however there is an excellent opportunity for timber treatment knowledge and technology transfer from New Zealand.

 

Interior view showing use of Radiata pine from New Zealand.

 

Radiata pine remanufacturing. High lumber recovery rates are assisted by finger-jointing and edge-gluing small pieces of lumber to form higher-value wide boards and panels.

 

Peter Clark inspects panels produced from edge-glued lumber.