Australia’s commercial plantation estate stood at 1.8 million hectares in 2019-20 according to statistics released today by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).
ABARES Acting Executive Director, Dr Jared Greenville, said the report shows the softwood estate remained relatively stable at about one million hectares.
“However, the hardwood estate declined by about 200 thousand hectares compared to the previous estimate for 2014-15, Dr Greenville said.
“Annual softwood log availability is forecast to decline from an average of 17 million cubic meters over the period 2015–19 to approximately 15 million cubic meters a year over 2020–24.
“The lower projected softwood production is due to a range of reasons including the bushfires in the summer of 2019-20 and the age of the trees in the ground. Softwood plantations are based on a 30-year rotation so planting trees now won’t increase wood supply for some time to come.
“However, we are expecting wood supply to gradually recover out to 2050. By 2035-39 we are projecting softwood production to be about 18.5 million cubic meters, off the back of replanting and productivity gains. If realised this would be a record.
“There could be an average of 2.8 million cubic metres more softwood sawlogs a year available over 2035-39 compared to the average annual harvest over 2015-19”.
For hardwood plantations, the reduction in the estate is expected to have a relatively small impact on projected hardwood availability.
“Most of the removed hardwood plantations were low yielding or far from processing or export facilities, so converting them to another use has had minimal impact on projected supply,” Dr Greenville said.
“We are also seeing a slight shift for both softwood and hardwood from lower value pulplog production to higher value sawlog production. For example, some plantation managers have been successful in finding new markets for saw and veneer logs.”
Australian plantation statistics and log availability report 2021 can be viewed on the ABARES website.