Industry performance

Log harvest volume and gross value of production, 2017–18

Australia’s total log harvest (from native production forests and commercial plantations) in 2017–18 was 32.9 million cubic metres, a 1 per cent decrease from the record high 2016–17 log harvest of 33.2 million cubic metres and 44 per cent higher compared with 2012–13. In 2017−18 the gross value of log production reached a record high of $2.7 billion (mill door prices), a 4 per cent increase from 2016–17.

The majority of Australia’s annual total log harvest originates from commercial plantations. The remainder is sourced from native production forests. In 2017–18 commercial plantations accounted for 87 per cent of Australia’s total log harvest by volume and native production forests contributed 13 per cent.

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Native production forests

Logs harvested from native production forests comprise hardwood and softwood sawlogs (including veneer logs), hardwood pulplogs and other hardwood products. In 2017–18 the volume of logs harvested from native production forests decreased to 4.2 million cubic metres, down 2 per cent from the previous year (Figure 1). This reduction was largely due to a decrease in the hardwood sawlog harvest (down 7 per cent to 1.9 million cubic metres) and offset partially by a higher pulplog harvest (up 4 per cent to 2.0 million cubic metres). Of all hardwood sawlogs harvested in 2017–18, 70 per cent were produced from native production forests.

Over the past decade the volume of logs harvested from Australia’s native production forests has more than halved, from 9.1 million cubic metres in 2007−08 to 4.2 million cubic metres in 2017−18. From 2007–08 the annual native production forest total log harvest declined significantly, reaching a record low of 3.9 million cubic metres in 2012–13 (Figure 1). Since 2012–13 the annual log harvest from native production forests has grown at a low rate.

In 2017–18 the total log harvest from native production forests comprised 96 per cent hardwood species and 4 per cent softwood species (cypress pine). Of this total log harvest, 48 per cent was sawlogs from which high-quality structural and appearance grade products are manufactured, primarily for the domestic market. 48 per cent of the total native production forest log harvest was pulplogs for woodchip exports and domestic paper production. A small proportion of native production forest logs (4 per cent) was harvested to produce other products, including posts, poles, piles and girders.

The total value of native production forest logs harvested in 2017–18 decreased to $404 million (mill door price), down 2 per cent from 2016–17.

Figure 1 Volume and value of logs harvested from native production forests, 2007−08 to 2017−18

Note: Native forest sawlog volume includes a small amount of native softwood (cypress pine). Total native forest log volume includes the category ‘other’, which comprises poles, piles, fencing and other logs not elsewhere included.

Commercial plantations

In 2017−18 the total volume of logs harvested from Australia’s commercial plantations was 28.7 million cubic metres (a 1 per cent decrease from the record high 2016−17 log harvest), valued at $2.3 billion (mill door price). Of the total volume of logs harvested from commercial plantations in 2017–18, hardwood species accounted for 39 per cent and softwood species represented 61 per cent.

Hardwood plantations

In contrast with the modest growth in the native production forest hardwood log harvest since 2012–13, the hardwood plantation log harvest more than doubled over the past five years to 11.3 million cubic metres in 2017–18, down 1 per cent from the previous year (Figure 2). The pulplog harvest decreased to 10.5 million cubic metres (down 4 per cent from 2016−17) and the sawlog harvest increased to 810,000 cubic metres (up 69 per cent from 2016−17).

In 2017–18, pulplogs harvested mainly for woodchip exports represented 93 per cent of all hardwood logs harvested from commercial plantations. Sawlogs, veneer logs and other log products made up the remaining 7 per cent. Plantation hardwood logs represented 73 per cent of total hardwood logs harvested in Australia in 2017–18.

In 2017–18 the total value of plantation hardwood logs increased to a record $851 million (mill door price), up 6 per cent from the previous year.

Figure 2 Volume and value of logs harvested from commercial hardwood plantations, 2007−08 to 2017−18

Note: ‘Total hardwood plantation log volume’ includes the category ‘other’, which comprises other hardwood plantation log products. ‘Hardwood plantation sawlog volume’ includes veneer logs and logs for plywood.

Softwood plantations

The total volume of softwood plantation logs harvested annually in Australia—comprising sawlogs, pulplogs and other log products—has fluctuated over the past decade, largely in response to changes in housing construction.

Since 2012–13 the annual harvest volume of softwood plantations has been increasing but at an average slower rate than the plantation hardwood log harvest (Figure 3). In 2017–18 the total volume of softwood plantation logs harvested was 17.4 million cubic metres, down 0.6 per cent from the previous year. The softwood plantation sawlog harvest decreased in 2017−18 to 10.7 million cubic metres (down 0.1 per cent from 2016−17) and the softwood plantation pulplog harvest decreased to 6.3 million cubic metres (down 3 per cent from 2016−17).

The majority of softwood logs harvested from commercial plantations in 2017–18 were sawlogs and veneer logs (61 per cent). Softwood plantation pulplogs—used for woodchip exports and domestic paper, paperboard and panel production—comprised 36 per cent of the total plantation softwood log harvest. Other log products, including roundwood, posts and poles, made up the remainder.

In 2017–18 the total value of plantation softwood logs increased to a record $1.4 billion (mill door price), up 4 per cent from the previous year.

Figure 3 Volume and value of logs harvested from commercial softwood plantations, 2007−08 to 2017−18

Note: 'Softwood plantation sawlog volume’ includes veneer logs and logs for plywood. ‘Total softwood plantation log volume’ includes the category ‘other’, which comprises other softwood plantation log products.

Domestic production of wood products, 2017–18

The logs harvested from Australia’s commercial plantations and native production forests are processed into a variety of wood-based products for the domestic market. These products include sawnwood, paper and paperboard, and wood-based panels. The production volumes of these wood products have fluctuated over the past decade (Figure 4). The volume of domestic packaging and industrial paper and paperboard production has been gradually increasing since 2012–13 and the volume of softwood sawnwood production has been trending downwards since 2014–15. Production volumes of hardwood sawnwood and other paper and paperboard have been relatively steady since 2015–16.

Figure 4 Volume of domestic production, selected wood products, 2007–08 to 2017–18

Note: ‘Other paper and paperboard’ comprises newsprint, printing and writing, and household and sanitary.

Sawnwood

Sawnwood is produced in Australia using softwood and hardwood sawlogs sourced from commercial plantations and native production forests.

Softwood sawnwood is mainly used for structural purposes in housing construction—such as wall and floor framing and roof trusses—and accounts for the majority of total sawnwood production (85 per cent in 2017–18). As a result, one of the key factors influencing sawnwood consumption is domestic dwelling commencements. Hardwood sawnwood is generally used for its durability or appearance—for example, in flooring, decking and joinery—and is sourced largely from native production forests.

In 2017–18 Australia produced 4.6 million cubic metres of sawnwood, a 2 per cent decrease from 2016–17. Softwood sawnwood production in 2017–18 decreased to 3.9 million cubic metres (down 1 per cent from the previous year) and hardwood sawnwood production decreased to 711,000 cubic metres (down 6 per cent).

Paper and paperboard

Australia produces a range of paper and paperboard products using pulplogs sourced from commercial plantations, native production forests and residues from wood processors. These products include packaging and industrial paper, printing and writing paper, newsprint, and household and sanitary paper.

In 2017–18 Australia’s total production of paper and paperboard decreased by 0.3 per cent from 2016–17 to 3.2 million tonnes. Production of packaging and industrial paper, which comprises 68 per cent of Australia’s total paper and paperboard production, increased to 2.2 million tonnes (up 1 per cent from the previous year). Production of household and sanitary paper increased to a record 244,000 tonnes (up 5 per cent). The growth in these categories was offset by decreases in the production of printing and writing paper (to 456,000 tonnes, down 5 per cent) and newsprint (to 318,000 tonnes, down 3 per cent).


Last reviewed:
20 Jun 2019