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The forestry message

Saturday, March 19, 2016, John Purey-Cust Ponders

I’ve just finished my Monday mail speed-read of the week’s first two Ag freebies. People say that the future of forestry lies with the ‘small’ forest owner but forestry isn’t obviously there in these papers.

There is quite a lot to say about Landcorp’s dumping of dairy from its pine conversion pro- gramme in the Waikato. Alternatives are men- tioned but there is no analysis of the place of forestry amongst them. The suspicion hovers that for a while now the forest might have paid better and that its removal is more of a crusade than economics.

One or two once-forestry people are there.

Chris Perley will be worth another more leisurely read, there are two Beltons (one on clams and the other one forestry credits), and a popular ag- ricultural soil scientist tells (entertainingly and as usual) the market to eff off if it doesn’t agree with his science.

Two more papers will come later in the week. All four will have tables and graphs illustrating the primary product markets of the day and all will exclude forest products. Why?
At the moment the only writer that I know of to regularly cover the ups and downs of the forest products market is Allan Laurie in the Tree Grower. He does an excellent job measuring the ebb and flow of prices in the log market, but he doesn’t aim at the person who needs convincing that commercial forestry has a place on his farm.

There are also occasional articles of value on the subject (see Peter Gresham in the Novem- ber 2015 Tree Grower), but no one offers the full package. The big value of forestry is as an ac- cumulator of wealth, quite a lot of it in fact, something which a routine agricultural crop doesn’t always do, and there is value too in eco- nomic diversity

How do we measure this, express it simply? Weekly price tables aren’t needed - too often; we won’t miss a day by day change and can usually hold off for another year or two anyway. The trees don’t go bad if left where they are, nor do they cost money growing, in fact they make it - a unique virtue.

Economic analysis labours over these problems and becomes enormously complicated, no help to everyday decision making. We need to keep it simple. Perhaps it is as simple as (for radiata) ’20 tonnes/year @ $100/tonne x 30 years = $60,000 per hectare.

Don’t come back to me with a pack of split infinitives and if and why and but and when. Just adjust the figures to suit.

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Disclaimer: Personal views expressed in this blog are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent those of the NZ Farm Forestry Association.

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