Timber markets and impacts for Australian imports

Friday 24 Jun 2022

Australia faces the reality of a persistent and growing gap between the supply and demand of sawn softwood timber. This is the interim finding of an FWPA-commissioned report analysing the future market dynamics of the softwood products industry and the potential impacts on Australian timber imports.

As Australia’s population continues to grow, demand for new dwellings will expand. By no later than 2050, the report suggests Australia will have:

• a population of between 34 and 40 million people
• demand for around 259,000 new dwellings per year
• more than 5 million additional households
• sawn softwood demand of 6.5 million m3 annually — almost 2 million cubic metres per year higher than in 2021
• static local sawn softwood production of between 3.6 and 3.8 million m3 per year, due to constraints on sawlog supply
• a gap between demand and local production of 2.6 million m3 per year, which is equivalent to 40.5 per cent of total demand.

In addition to housing and other dwellings, the report also considers additional demand for sawn softwood in Australia, including for industrial applications like packaging and a wide range of outdoor uses.

“As the Australian population continues to grow and more homes are needed, the construction industry increasingly embraces timber as a sustainable alternative to other materials,” said Kevin Peachey, FWPA Statistics and Economics Manager. “At the same time, consumers continue to seek out a range of environmentally friendly products made from wood.”

The report states that because Australia’s softwood plantation estate has not expanded for almost three decades, there is an ever-increasing risk of local supply not keeping pace with demand. On imports specifically, the report indicates sawn softwood brought in from overseas would need to reach 2 million m3 per annum before 2050, which is almost triple the level recorded in 2021.

“Imports play an important role in supplementing local production. However, this data and analysis also demonstrates global supplies of sawn softwood are diminishing, and factors of market volatility are becoming increasingly evident,” said Kevin Peachey. The alternative solution to over-reliance on imports is new plantation establishment.

The report estimates Australia would need to establish as much as 468,000 hectares of additional softwood plantations to effectively meet future demand, while also establishing the ‘buffer stock’ required to meet peaks in demand volatility.

You can read the Future market dynamics and potential impacts on Australian timber imports – interim report by clicking here. The full report is expected to be available later this month.

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Source: FWPA

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