Friday Offcuts – 9 August 2013

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New Zealand’s inaugural MobileTECH Summit 2013 finished yesterday. The event was sold out. Over two hundred decision makers and early adopters of new technology from across the country’s primary industries were meeting in Wellington. They were there to learn about new and emerging mobile communications technologies being rolled for our land–based industries.

Forestry companies (from both sides of the Tasman) were well represented at the Summit – along with innovators drawn from across the horticultural, dairy, meat, wool and fisheries industries and those supplying technology, products or services to New Zealand's primary industries. Improving communication networks, the use of cloud computing, wireless monitoring, enhanced quality satellite imagery and the integration of smart phones into our businesses are at the forefront of productivity gains and are reshaping how we do business.

MobileTECH 2013 has been an invaluable platform for disseminating new information and encouraging innovation and technology adoption by New Zealand’s primary industries. The real plus from the two-day meeting was the ability to network, to share ideas and to forge future co-operative ventures across each of these main sectors. We’ll look to cover some of the outstanding presentations in future issues of Friday Offcuts and building on the feedback from those attending this first event for a follow-up in 2014.

Finally we have a couple of stories in this week’s issue covering the reviving fortunes of the Chinese log and lumber market. After a drop in imports in 2012 and early 2013, the value of imported logs and lumber jumped by more than 30 % year-over-year for the second quarter of this year. New Zealand has now become the largest softwood log supplier to China with a 36% market share, compared to Russia’s 30% and the Pacific North West with 23%. As well as logs, lumber imports have also climbed with volumes almost tripling in four years with Russia and Canada being the two major suppliers of softwood lumber into China. The European’s are also starting to make their presence felt. Check out the updates below.

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China’s lumber and log imports back to new highs

After a decline in importation of logs and lumber into China in 2012 and early 2013, the country came back roaring in the 2Q/13 with the import value increasing by more than 30 % year-over-year, as reported in the Wood Resource Quarterly. The total value of imported softwood logs and lumber was over 2.2 billion dollars in the 2Q/13, an increase by almost $600 million from the previous quarter.

The higher demand for wood products comes as house-building activities have increased in the first half of 2013 as compared to the same period in 2012. Year-over-year, investments were up 13 % in residential buildings, and 23 % in commercial buildings, according to recently published official Chinese statistics.

During the past few years, importation of lumber has grown at a faster pace than that of log imports with the share of lumber of the total import value having gone up from 35 % in 2010 to 42 % in the 2Q/13. The import volumes has almost tripled in four years with Russia and Canada having been the two major suppliers of softwood lumber, together accounting for almost 80% of all lumber imported to China in the 2Q/13. European sawmills have not had a major presence in the Chinese wood market but this is changing.

In June of this year, European shipments accounted for over eight percent of the total lumber imports to China. It can be expected that more containers of lumber will find their way from Europe to China in the coming years. The Chinese log import market, which once was completely dominated by Russia, has evolved the past four years to a more diversified group of supplying countries, as reported in the Wood Resource Quarterly.

New Zealand has become the largest softwood log supplier to China, Russia’s presence has diminished, and the US and Canada currently supply 25 % of all logs imported to China. Russia’s log exports to China are likely to continue to decline, but there will likely be opportunities for Russian sawmills to increase their shipments in the future.

Wood Resources International,

Improving efficiencies through the US wood supply chain

Better management of wood flows within the wood supply chain has been a clear priority for the majority of forest products companies over the last couple of years. The pressure’s been on to squeeze as much out of each segment – and across the entire wood supply chain – from harvesting and transport operations through to market. With a big jump in both the quality and type of data available that’s now being made available, significant inroads have been made in the last 12 months into capturing some of these inefficiencies.

For the first time in the Pacific North West, a one-day conference, ForestTECH 2013 – Improving Wood Transport & Logistics, has been set up for forestry managers, technical foresters, forestry consultants, forest logistics and supply chain managers, harvest planners and transport operators. The innovative program will provide a long overdue insight into innovations, strategies and technologies being used by forest products companies to improve planning, logistics and operations within the wood supply chain.

The well-known US forestry association, the Western Forestry and Conservation Association (WFCA) is joining forces with Australasia’s leading provider of forest products technology programs, the Forest Industry Engineering Association (FIEA) to run this inaugural event.

In addition to innovative practices being employed by local forestry operations to improve their wood harvesting and transportation planning, practical case studies are being drawn from the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Presenters will be outlining how some of the strategic, tactical and operational planning issues are being resolved and more importantly, how efficiencies have been achieved and some of the tools that have been developed for wood supply chain design and management.

Speakers include; Enda Keane, CEO, TreeMetrics, Ireland Paul Gianotti, Transportation Coordinator, Weyerhauser Co, USA, Vincent Corrao, President, North West Management Inc, USA, Don Taylor, Sustainable Resource Systems, USA, Matt Ludbrook, General Manager, Asset Forestry Logistics, New Zealand, Brookes McKee, Product Manager, Trimble Forestry, USA, Mikael Ronqvist, Laval University, Canada, Jean Favreau, Manager Value Maximisation & Decision Support, Canada, Kevin Boston, Associate Professor, OSU, USA, Doug Jones, VP Forestry, Remsoft, Canada and Brendon Petrich, GM, VWorkApp, New Zealand.

ForestTECH 2013 – Improving Wood Transport & Logistics runs in Portland, OR, USA on Wednesday 9 October. Full details can be found here.

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Know what you’ll cut before you cut!

Since 2012, the high speed in-line CT scanner produced by Microtec has been able to look inside a log and recognise the quality of the final products before log breakdown. Currently, three CT scanners are operating at 120 metres per minute and are working in Europe and North and South America.

Microtec states, amongst other benefits that the CT.LOG will allow:
- complete log and stem description in real-time
- digital reconstruction (dimension and quality) of the timber log and virtual cutting
- identification of the cutting pattern with the highest value
- sorting based on quality, value and optimised cutting-pattern

Compared to other technologies, CT.LOG enables the saw miller to; detect large splits inside the log, detect knots, the size of knots and location of the defects, detect pith and the core inside the log (this gives the advantage that the core can be cut out dynamically from log to log), set quality rules that will consider the above information in the optimisation of the products and allow curve sawing solutions to be found based around the low core wood zone.

“This ground breaking innovation is, indeed, a game changer”, says Federico Giudiceandrea, CEO of Microtec during an interview. “We are sure that the woodworking industry will refer to “before” and “after” CT. In about 10 years’ time, every log will be scanned with computer tomography.”

At WoodEXPO 2013 in both Australia and New Zealand, Norbert Oberaigner, Senior Project & Sales Manager from MiCROTEC will be presenting this revolutionary technology and will be available for discussions at the Acora booth at both venues.

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Significant growth seen for wood plastic composites

Wood and other natural fibres have been used in composites for many years. Recently there has been a resurgence of interest, particularly development of the wood-plastic composites industry and nanocellulose composites. The global market for applications of wood-plastic composites (WPCs), cellulosic plastics, plastic lumber and natural fibre composites was estimated at about 2.4 million metric tons in 2011. By 2016, it is estimated at nearly 4.6 million metric tons and rising at a robust compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.8%, as per BCC Research.

The market for building products is expected to experience the highest growth, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.4% during the 5-year period from 2011 to 2016. This sector is expected to be worth 1.7 million metric tons in 2011 and nearly 3.2 million metric tons in 2016. The market for automotive applications is estimated at 350,000 metric tons in 2011 and is expected to increase at 17.1% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to reach nearly 8,00,000 metric tons in 2016. US demand for wood-plastic composite and plastic lumber is projected to advance over 13% pa to US$5.4 billion in 2015. Advances will be driven by a rebound in construction expenditures from a depressed 2010 base. Further growth will be boosted by increasing consumer demand for building products made from composite and plastic lumber, instead of more traditional materials, such as natural wood.

Wood-plastic composite lumber will register more rapid gains than plastic lumber, advancing over 16% pa to US$2.5 billion in 2015. Gains will be driven by ongoing consumer interest in the material as a substitute for natural wood products in such applications as decking and fencing. Moreover, because wood-plastic composite lumber incorporates recycled materials, it is seen as an environmentally friendly building material.

As per Research and Markets, firm growth is forecast for wood plastics composites in Europe despite financial woes. From a slow start around 40 years ago, in the automotive sector, European production of wood plastics composites has both diversified in its applications and grown rapidly over the last five years to reach 193,000 tons by 2010. Another report forecasts continuing growth to almost 360,000 tons by 2015, which represents -- average annual growth of 13%, but nevertheless a slowing in growth compared with the 2005-10 period, as a result of the continuing difficulties in European economies.

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Log export update

New Zealand exports
Prices have decreased in export destinations, which are pushing down prices at the wharf gate, though as expected this has been mitigated to some extent by the drop in the NZ dollar. Most prices this month have remained flat though export pruned prices have dropped considerably.

Pruned exports are down $6/tonne on average, though the largest drop has come in the northern North Island where prices are down $10/tonne. The rest of the country has averaged drops of closer to $3/tonne. This is due to the sap stain issues logs have been having in ports in China, and has had more effect on at-wharf-gate returns as the demand is still high for pruned logs which is supporting the current in-market log prices.

NZ had a very large month for log exports during May, exporting 1.4 million tonnes, including over 1 million tonnes to China. This left NZ well on track to exceed the highest half year total ever for exports, despite including the typically slow January and February period. Exports this year so far are averaging just under 1.3 million tonnes per month.

May was a month of record exports from Tauranga, with 620,000 tonnes exported during the month. This was a large step up from the month previous. But over the last year, growth in Tauranga has not been as rapid as out of Whangarei, which had a 38% increase year on year for the year to May.

China imported another very large amount of logs in May, slightly down on April’s record volume, but at just over 2.9 million m³ it has contributed to a huge first half of 2013 for log imports. 12.4 million m³ have been imported this year to May. NZ is now consistently the largest supplier of logs to China, and has a 36% market share, compared to Russia’s 30% and the Pacific North West with 23%. This is a 2% increase of market share for NZ, compared with a drop of 10% year-on-year for Russia’s market share.

Investment in wood manufacturing within China has increased in May, and has been relatively high through the start of 2013. For the first five months of the year, cumulative investment has been 32% higher than the start of 2012. Investment typically rises in the from April onwards and so while it has been a promising start the total investment is still around 30% lower than when log prices reached their peak in 2011.

South Korea & India
Exports to South Korea dropped back slightly in May, though are still close to the 200,000 m³ mark. Though the South Korean economy has been slowing and there have been issues around slow building and bad weather, it is proving to be a very steady market. The start to exports this year has been 9% higher than the five year average. While exports to South Korea tend to be cheaper industrial K – grade logs, compared to the larger A-grade logs sent to China, the strong prices in China have caused the Korean market to lift as well so that average export prices are 17% above year ago levels as at May.

Exports to India have been much steadier this year than in 2012 when there were large month to month fluctuations. The Indian economy is stagnating, while inflation is growing while productivity wanes. This has caused credit supply problems that go some way to explaining the fluctuations in prices. May prices in India were also up on last year as they are forced to reach parity with China and South Korea, however, they are still only roughly in line with the highest average prices paid last year in June, when there was a short lived upswing due to availability of credit and a gap in the monsoon season.


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Canadian sawmills: highest level of sales since 2007

According to the Canada's National Statistical Agency, total sales in the wood product industry were up 19.7% over the 12-month period from June 2012 to May 2013 compared with the same period one year earlier. By comparison, total manufacturing sales in Canada, excluding wood products, decreased 1.1% over the same period.

Wood product manufacturing was one of only eight industries where sales increased from June 2012 to May 2013, and represented both the largest dollar gain and largest percentage gain by industry. Sales in wood product manufacturing reached $22.7 billion from June 2012 to May 2013, their highest point since 2007/2008.

The rise in exports was largely attributable to growth in the US housing market. Data published by the US Census Bureau report that unadjusted housing units started in the United States reached 863,600 units from June 2012 to May 2013, up 28.9% compared with the same period a year earlier. The IPPI indicates that wood prices in sawmills and wood preservation industry have risen 10.5% over this period as a result of increased demand.

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50,000-year-old forest of fresh trees found

Scuba divers in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Alabama have uncovered a primeval underwater forest buried under ocean sediments, according to an article in Live Science. The Bald Cypress forest, protected in an oxygen-free environment for more than 50,000 years, was likely uncovered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said Ben Raines, executive director of the non-profit Weeks Bay Foundation and one of the first divers to explore the site.

The forest contains Cypress trees so well-preserved that when they are cut, they still smell like fresh Cypress sap, Raines said. The site spans a roughly two-mile area about 60 feet below the surface, and is located 12 miles off the coast of Alabama near Gulf Shores.

"A fisherman stumbled across something on his depth finder - a strange ledge - so he started fishing it and caught a lot of fish there," Raines said. "He asked a friend who is a diver if he would go to the location and see what was down there." The diver descended to the spot and found numerous tree stumps, said Raines, who at the time was a reporter at the Press-Register in Mobile.

But the dive shop owner refused to disclose the location for several years, Raines said, because scuba divers often take artefacts from shipwrecks and other sites. But Raines didn't give up. "I pestered him (diver friend) until he agreed to take me out there.' When he finally dove to the area last August, Raines said he encountered "a magical, enchanted, otherworldly place with trees all around that should never be on the bottom of the ocean." More >>.
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Forestry deal close says Elders

Elders is closing in on a deal to shed its troublesome forestry interests as the drive to clear massive debts hits top gear. The historic Australian company last week completed the sale of its Futuris automotive division to US private equity firm Clearlake.

The AU$69 million sale will slash Elders' net debt and managing director Malcolm Jackman said he expected the disposal of the forestry interests within months. Mr Jackman said reducing debt remained a top priority for Elders as it moved to focus solely on its rural services business.

The forestry interests, which include blue gum plantations near Esperance with 11,000ha of freehold land and 46,000ha of standing trees, have been a millstone around the company's neck. The managed investment scheme plantations are being bulldozed with no prospect of a harvest and prepared for a return to pasture or cropping.

Source: The West Australian
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Logging & trucking specialist visitor from the USA

The Forest Engineering programme at the NZ School of Forestry will be hosting Professor Tom Gallagher for the two months September and October. Prof Gallagher is based at Auburn University in Alabama and has worked extensively with the highly mechanised logging workforce in south eastern USA to address issues of productivity and safety. He has also been involved with a number of studies regarding trucking configurations and efficiency – noting that some of the biggest gains made relates to truck design and their tare weight.

We are really looking forward to Tom sharing his expertise with the students here at the University of Canterbury, says Rien Visser, Director of Studies for Forest Engineering. Tom is very motivate to learn and share experiences with the NZ industry on issues such as safety and transportation. We certainly hope to have Tom get out and about, so if anyone would like to host him for a day while he is here please contact Rien at
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Pulp & Paper workers launch billboard campaign

With four generations of his family having worked at Australian Paper’s Maryvale Mill, Traralgon local Chris Robertson is passionate about the future of the largest private sector employer in the Latrobe Valley.

Along with fellow mill workers, Mr Robertson launched two prominent billboards in the heart of Morwell on Wednesday, with the aim of putting their industry’s future firmly on the political agenda during the five-week Federal Election campaign. The billboards — part of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union’s ‘Let’s Spread It Around’ campaign — carry a simple message: “Don’t shred pulp and paper jobs. Buying Australian paper means Australian jobs.”

For Mr Robertson, who has worked at the mill for 23 years, the future of his local employer, and the Australian paper industry generally, is a deeply personal issue. “Four generations of our family have worked at the Maryvale Mill,” Mr Robertson said. “My grandfather, father and uncle worked there, as did my father-in-law and mother-in-law, and more recently my 23-year-old son started working at the mill in 2011.

“This mill opened in 1937, and since then it’s been an economic backbone for the communities of Morwell and Traralgon, where most of the 1000 direct employees live. “But times are tough for our industry, and we’ve all watched as more than 700 manufacturing jobs in the pulp and paper industry have been lost in just the last three years.

“You can’t help but worry when you see mills close at Burnie and Wesley Vale in Tasmania and machines shut down in Millicent, South Australia. “These billboards are part of a campaign to fix the procurement policies of the Australian Government, which is the largest customer of paper products in the country, so that the jobs of Aussie workers in the industry aren’t thrown on the scrapheap”.

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Wildfire projected to spread like, well, wildfire

A recently published study: Global Wildland Fire Season Severity in the 21st Century, indicates that in coming decades, conventional approaches to wildfire management may no longer be effective. It appears in a Forest Ecology and Management journal special issue entitled The Mega-fire reality, published by Elsevier.

The study is a first global review that shows the extent of the increasing length of the fire season and the increasing fire weather severity. It gives a "state of the science" assessment of global fire and climate change and an indication of the strength and trajectory of change in future fire regimes.

The publication provides fire managers from countries around the world with a global picture of expected fire season severity increases. The results indicate the importance of sharing resources for increased fire protection capacity as well as the importance of early warning as a means of preventing or mitigating disaster fires.

Referring to recent disastrous fires in Australia in '09, Russia in '10 and Texas and other U.S. states in '11 as possible precursors of what is coming, the publication reinforces its underlying message that fire management is going to be greatly challenged in the future and new policy/strategy development is needed.

For more information click here

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Japan’s unique wood planing competition

Every year, wood planing experts from all over Japan meet up for a very unique competition in which everyone tries to shave off the thinnest piece of wood possible. I don’t know how skilled you are with a hand plane, but these guys can actually peel off see-through slices of wood that are measured in microns.

At the wood planing finals held during the annual Kezuroukai exhibition in Japan, participants use it not to show off their wood smoothing skills, but to shave off the thinnest strip of wood possible. They are each assigned a bench to use for about two hours, during which time they exercise their planing technique, adjusting and sharping their tools for when it matters most.

When the contest starts, each competitor has three tries to shave off the thinnest piece of wood in front of a judge who uses a special tool to measure the thickness. But producing strips of wood thin enough to see through doesn’t require only proper tools and practice, but also great wood, so planers are allowed to bring bundles of whatever wood they think yields the best result.

Last year, the wood planing competition was held in the port city of Uwajima, on the island of Shikoku, and the thinnest shaving was only 9 microns thick. A micros is one-thousandth of a millimeter…Just to give you an idea of how impressively thin that is, the average human hair is 100 microns across, a cloud water droplet is 10 microns in diameter, and a human blood cell measures 8-9 microns. Even more incredible is the fact that the record for the thinnest shaving currently stands at 3 microns.

Source: Oddity Central

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Scientists develop energy batteries made from wood

Scientists have taken inspiration from trees to develop a battery made from a sliver of wood coated with tin that shows promise for becoming a tiny, long-lasting, efficient and environmentally friendly energy source. Their report on the device — 1,000 times thinner than a sheet of paper — appears in the journal Nano Letters.

The team of scientists at the University of Maryland point out that today’s batteries often use stiff, non-flexible substrates, which are too rigid to release the stress that occurs as ions flow through the battery. They knew that wood fibres from trees are supple and naturally designed to hold mineral-rich water, similar to the electrolyte in batteries.

They decided to explore use of wood as the base of an experimental sodium-ion battery. Using sodium rather than lithium would make the device environmentally friendly. Lead author Hongli Zhu and other team members describe lab experiments in which the device performed successfully though 400 charge-discharge cycles, putting it among the longest-lasting of all sodium-ion nanobatteries.

Batteries using the new technology would be best suited for large-scale energy storage applications, such as wind farms or solar energy installations, the report indicates.

Source: ClickGreen

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NZ forestry companies merge

Northland based forestry company ForestLand Limited has announced its merger with NZ Forestry Limited. Rob Webster, Managing Director of NZ Forestry Ltd advises that Jeremy Waldegrave Owner/ Director of ForestLand Ltd, will become Director Harvesting & Marketing. NZ Forestry Ltd’s Head Office is located in Auckland, with other personnel located in Whangarei, Hamilton, Katikati and New Plymouth.

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Buy and Sell

...and one to end the week alcohol test

When the blood alcohol testing machine doesn't work, these police officers have to go to plan B to make sure these drivers aren't driving drunk. They turn on a stereo, crank up the music, and ask drivers to perform a very complicated western dance with them in the middle of the street.

And on that note, have a great weekend. Cheers.

Brent Apthorp
Editor, Friday Offcuts
PO Box 904
Level Two, 2 Dowling Street
Dunedin, New Zealand
Ph: +64 3 470 1902
Fax: +64 3 470 1904
Web page:

This week's extended issue, along with back issues, can be viewed at

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