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Clarky's Comment - August 2013

My recent trip to China caused me to reflect on some changes that have taken place in the Chinese forestry sector since I was last involved as a consultant 15 years ago, not the least of which was that the smaller town hotel plumbing has gotten a lot more robust than it was back then!

In the SE province of Guangxi the technical expertise applied to growing E.urophylla x E. grandis clonal stands is up with international best practise. The technology was introduced under Australian aid in the 1980s and has been refined since. Trees are harvested between age 5 and 7 with an average MAI of 28.5 m³/ha/annum and some stands producing 45 m³/ha/annum.

This 20-year E. urophylla x E. grandis stand has been left to monitor growth over a longer rotation. The CAI has slowed but crowns remain healthy.

Wood processing factories have proliferated in the province making veneers, plywood and MDF from this resource. The province is attracting the attention of both institutional and industrial wood manufacturing investors.

This eucalypt-based ply has 2 faces of paper-thin (0.18mm) hardwood veneer imported from Malayasia or Indonesia.

Following decades of overcutting and serious flooding in the NE province of Heilongjiang logging all but ceased in 1998. The focus now is on forest restoration with small coupe enrichment planting. Korean (red) pine, spruce, larch and birch are the main species used but other rarer species are also planted. This restoration planting work will one day enable harvesting to be ramped up, although this could be several decades away due to the slow growth rates.

This well-run nursery in Jilin Province holds red pine seedlings for 4 years before planting out.

I was in China at the time that Fonterra issued its recall on certain batches of milk products. While this issue will be resolved and trade recommence it did cause me to reflect on how we would cope in the event that for any reason our log trade was suddenly halted. A diversity of markets and increased sales of processed wood products rather than bark-on logs seems a sensible risk mitigation strategy.