Forestry exports soar skyward

Southland's forestry industry is still booming, with export volumes out of Bluff showing an increase of 211 per cent in a year.

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry senior programmes adviser (Otago-Southland) Denis Albert said export values were driven skywards by high volumes and strong prices.

Bluff forestry export volumes grew from 59,299 Japanese Agricultural Standard in September 2009 to 184, 657 JAS in September 2010.

Roughly equivalent to a tonne, JAS are measured in cubic metres.

Figures for December 2010 were not yet available, he said.

Nationally prices rose 13 per cent from the same time last year.

Figures released by Statistics New Zealand last week showed export values had risen from $2.3 billion in January 2010 to $2.6b last month.

Prices for December 2010 showed radiata pine pulp started at $100 per JAS, and went up to $203 for pruned logs, with demand from India and China driving export values, Mr Albert said.

Ernslaw One southern regional manager Phil De la Mare also believed demand from China was keeping the industry afloat.

"Without China things wouldn't be quite so rosy," he said.

There was no reason to think prices would drop anytime soon, and as long as demand remained the market would stay buoyant, he said.

But Southland District Council forestry manager Roger Washbourn urged caution, saying prices tended to go in cycles. "Traditionally they go up and down like the sun."

High prices were hugely beneficial for Southland's economy, he said.

"Dairy is way ahead [in economic importance] but forestry's not far behind," he said.

Southern Wood Council chairman Grant Dodson said although it was unrealistic to think prices would stay where they were forever, "right now it's pretty good".

"The industry's very much pulling its weight as a significant contributor to the regional economy in both Southland and Otago.

"We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars."

The Southland Times