New Zealand’s plantation log removals fall to 7 year lows

New Zealand’s total removals from its softwood plantations fell 13.5% in the March quarter to 1.738 million m3, their lowest quarterly result in seven years. Export logs were most impacted, unsurprisingly because the average export price declined by as much as 8.9%. Far from being a ‘quarter in time’, the March quarter falls were the third successive quarterly decline, coming before the pandemic brought most of the industry to a halt.

As can be seen in the chart below, New Zealand’s plantation removals have been dominated over the last decade by the export (dark red bars) volumes. That was still the case in the March quarter, but the 17.8% fall to 4.180 million m3 was the lowest monthly extractions in three years. As the previous item in Statistics Count demonstrates, softwood log exports were very low in April, before recovering to normal monthly volumes in May.

Despite declining steeply, export logs still accounted for nearly 62% of New Zealand’s total plantation removals for the quarter.

Fig 17

To go straight to the dashboard and take a closer look at the data, click here.

For the export logs, the price declines in the March quarter may have contributed to the lower removals. Pruned log prices declined an average 8.9% compared with the December quarter, falling to NZDFob173/JASm3. P1 Grade logs saw prices fall 2.7% to NZDFob183/t over the same period.

Next most significant of the log removals was the saw log volumes, which declined 7.1% to 1.738 million m3, their lowest volume in five years, when in the March quarter of 2015, saw log removals amounted to 1.617 million m3. In the March quarter of 2020, sawlog extractions accounted for almost 26% of total extractions.

All other extractions are minor, by comparison.

Arising from the sawlog extractions, sawn timber production was down 7.1% in the March quarter, falling to 963,000 m3, with inventories largely stable (down 13,000 m3 to 615,000 m3 or almost exactly two months of production.

The chart below shows that after trending up since 2015, production has declined to its lowest level since the March quarter of 2015, albeit it was within 1,000 m3 of the result in the March quarter of 2016.

It seems fair to say that for New Zealand’s plantation log industry and its supply chain, the pandemic came at an already difficult time.


Fig. 18

To go straight to the dashboard and take a closer look at the data, click here.