The operator of southern Tasmania's only direct freight service has announced it is pulling out of the state in two weeks, forcing customers to transport goods to northern ports by road or rail. Singapore-based company Swire Shipping has been operating out of Hobart every nine days since 2015, but are stopping the service due to charter and bunker costs making the service "commercially unviable".
The end of the service is expected to seriously affect the forestry sector, with one industry leader saying "a number of communities would be holding their collective breath knowing this will have a significant impact".
Chief executive of the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Michael Bailey said the biggest loser from the move was the southern Tasmanian forest industry, which had been using Swire's service to export to international markets.
"We know that for our Southern forest industries, this is a really important way of getting their residues into a profitable market, so this is a problem," he said. "There's really no other option but for the southern industries to freight their products now north. We know the impact that has on their bottom line, and that's going to be a problem for them."
Forest Industries Association of Tasmania chief executive Craig Jones said the decision would be "a problem for the Swire's customers who are using that and then also the customers for the wood overseas". Mr Jones said the Tasmanian timber industry was sustainable into the future, but was in need of proper coordination. "It's another illustration of the issue around residues in the southern forestry estate. Unless we find a manageable solution for that, it's always going to be difficult," he said.
A State Government spokesperson said logs could still be exported from Hobart through bulk shipments, and the loss of Swire would only affect containerised shipping. She said the Government would work with Swire customers to discuss the impact and alternative freight solutions and had engaged Evan Rolley to examine all forest residue options as a priority.
But Labor's shadow minister David O'Byrne said forestry companies that relied on the Swire service to ship their product to Melbourne would be significantly affected. "It will mean they have significant extra costs to get their product to the northern ports or they'll need to seek another exporter to move their products," he said.
Data from China Customs shows that in 2017 total value of China’s wood products trade (imports and exports) rose 10% to US$156.4 billion. The growth in wood products imports rose 21% to US$ 52.6 billion, significantly higher than the growth in exports (1.3%).
The US is the main importer of China’s wood products but anti-dumping and anti- subsidy policies in the have resulted in a sharp fall in exports to the US.
China’s wood products enterprises are facing considerable challenges in the US market. The value of foreign trade in wood products between China and the US in 2017 was US$29 billion, accounting for 19% of China’s total wood products trade.
However, tensions between the United States and China are increasing over trade issues after tariffs on US$50 billion worth of Chinese goods were announced by the US.
The US recently released a list of tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods and wood products are affected including wood chips, wood charcoal, logs, other wooden products, sleepers, sawnwood, veneer, wooden flooring, particleboard, fibreboard, plywood, laminated wood, wooden doors, wooden windows, bamboo and rattan, wood pulp and waste paper, paper and board, pulp and paper products and wooden furniture and seats.
In 2017 the value of China’s exports of wood products now included in the list attracting tariff was US$16.365 billion. The value of China’s imports wood products included in the list attracting US tariffs was $8.27 billion. China imports mainly waste paper, sawnwood, wood pulp, logs and paper products.
The changes to US tariffs, if implemented in full, will create a major challenge for Chinese enterprises. The tariffs will not immediately go into effect but will be subject to a two- month review process beginning in August.
In Papua New Guinea, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says there will be a complete ban on round log exports by year 2020 so that we keep the jobs in our country.
In a statement to parliament last week, he said: “We will not be issuing timber permits for round log exports by 2020.
“There will be a complete ban on round log exports by year 2020, so that we keep the jobs in our country.
“We want to get the timber companies to go into downstream processing in our country and the fixed product can be exported overseas.
“That is well in line and there is a good understanding in the industry and Government about how we develop our forestry industry.”
O’Neill said in terms of fisheries, government had introduced a rebate system.
“That is because fishing companies, especially in the tuna industry, have taken all the catches overseas,” he said. “They are not coming onshore to get fuel, or supply or offload the fish on our shores .
“As a result, many of our fish end up in Thailand or the Philippines.
“What we have done is we have done a rebate system.
“But we are now telling every fishing company and every fishing boat that you will pay the full price.
“When you come onshore and unload the fish in PNG waters and factories, we will give you a rebate.
“Despite some initial doubts about that programme, the fishing companies have now realised that this is beneficial to them as well.
“This is more so for our factories that were running at 20 per cent to 30 per cent capacity. They were not running at 100 per cent. I think on
RD Tuna cannery in Madang was running on full capacity but the rest of the tuna factories were not.
“This has now increased production of canned tuna products of fish in our country.”
“As a result, we can export to the European market on favourable terms that we have with the European Union.
“Initiatives like that are starting to produce positive results. We are making headways in terms of our negotiations with the resource companies.
“They are starting to come on board where we have had agreements where we gave them concessions about parking export revenues in overseas accounts.
“Future projects agreements will come under and follow a stricter adherence to that kind of arrangement.”
NZ log market 'nervy' over US-China trade stoush, says AgriHQ- New Zealand's booming export log market is starting to catch the jitters as concerns mount about the impact of US President Donald Trump’s trade war.
Demand for New Zealand logs has been strong over recent years as local sawmills compete with the export market to source logs for local construction, at a time when demand in China has stepped up after Asia's largest economy clamped down on the harvesting of its own forests and reduced tariffs on imported logs to meet demand in its local market. However, trade tensions between the US and China are creating nervousness in the market, as traders fear tariffs will hurt economic growth and dampen demand.
"Positivity has permeated the industry, at least for those selling logs, for upwards of two years," AgriHQ analyst Reece Brick said in his latest monthly report on the forestry market. "However it’s getting a bit nervy all of the sudden. That’s not to say everyone’s panicking, but there are certainly more reasons to frown than we’ve seen for a long- while.
"The export scene, along with the rest of the world, is trying to figure out what the outcomes will be of the tiff between the US and China. Economic growth data, stock exchange indices and foreign exchange rates have all made unfavourable movements in the past month, and there’s little sign that the relations between the two countries is on the mend."
Brick's comments about nervousness in the log market echo similar concerns noted by industry watchers in the dairy and wool industries recently, where demand is said to have weakened as buyers are concerned that tariffs on end products will flow back to dent demand for New Zealand commodities.
"If there’s a common enemy for NZ log traders it’s President Trump," said AgriHQ's Brick. "Another month of the US and China passing tit-for-tat trade tariffs is creating global economic uncertainty, understandably causing some nerves given log values are highly reliant on macro-economic strength."
The US and China this month imposed tariffs of 25 percent on US$34 billion of each other's exports and US tariffs on an additional US$16 billion of Chinese goods are coming soon. The US government also said last week it was readying new tariffs on Chinese goods worth an additional US$200 billion.
Brick noted the latest set of economic data out of China indicates the trade war is already impacting China’s economy, with second-quarter growth slowing to 6.7 percent, its slowest rate of growth in almost two years, and expectations for a further decline in the third quarter.
"The consensus in the market place is that the trade tension between China and the United States could cause an economic downturn," Brick said. "The International Monetary Fund condemned President Trump’s trade policy and advised governments to bulk up savings. The escalating trade tension may hinder global growth and delay foreign investments worldwide.
"The main issue is the nervousness that is reverberating throughout the globe, slowly rippling into NZ. Sentiment within the NZ market is mixed – the more risk averse are preparing for a drop beyond the short-term, while quite a few others are thinking this is a temporary, storm-in-a-teacup situation. Either way, no-one can be certain."
Forest products are New Zealand's third-largest commodity export group behind dairy and meat products. AgriHQ's monthly survey of exporters, forest owners and saw millers showed the average price for structural S1 logs in the New Zealand market edged up to $136 a tonne this month, from $135 a tonne last month, and marking the highest level since 1993. The average price for New Zealand A-grade export logs held steady at a four-year high of US$145/JAS.