Sawmill ownership and closuresAt the recent DryTech series one of the key international presenters, Mike Milota from the US was commenting on some of the key trends in the US. One of the more noticeable trends in recent years has been US companies divesting themselves of forests. In the five years, 2001-2006, some 22-24 million acres of US forest has changed hands. Of the largest 19 US forest owners, nine are now TIMO's, three Real Estate Investment Trusts and only six are forest products companies. This same trend of course is seen in New Zealand and Australia, the latest in ownership changes been the sale of the bulk of Carter Holt Harvey's 290,000ha of forests in New Zealand to the world's largest specialist manager of forest investments, North American group Hancock Natural Resource Group.
Mill consolidation and closures was also a major trend. Mill consolidation has meant for example that for kiln drying in the US, longer haul distances are now more often encountered, there is more variability in the raw material, this has resulted in more variability with drying in the kiln and larger kilns with faster production. Mill closures have been dramatic. In Oregon for example, sawmills have dropped from 300 in 1968 to 126 in 2003. The true extent of US mill closures can be seen graphically on www.usconservation.org
Again the same trend is evident in Australasia. A major 2-3 year upgrade of the Australian Forest Products Industry Map has just been completed by Innovatek and well over 120 changes with production and ownership have been identified for the larger processing operations. This new large format map will be included as a complimentary insert into the February issue of the Australasian Timberman magazine. Watch out for it.
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