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Why should industry invest in cypresses?

By Jacqui Aimers, Report: Why should industry invest in cypresses? A contract prepared for the Cypress Development Group with the assistance of FIDA, January 2008.

The aim of this report is to give industry a status report on cypress forestry, including current knowledge and knowledge gaps, and present a business case for investment in cypress research.

Cypress species have been planted in NZ for over 150 years. The cypress group has desirable wood properties, with naturally durable heartwood, pleasant appearance, and, with good stand management, provides a high-value product. There is relatively low variation in wood properties from pith to bark and, therefore, no corewood problems as associated with radiata pine. There is already excellent market acceptance, with a substantial price advantage over radiata pine and a major premium for quality. There is limited economic data available, but initial economic analyses indicate comparable economic returns with radiata-pine forestry. Export prospects for eastern Asia are very promising, but currently the domestic market remains under supplied.

New Zealand s forestry industry is largely based on radiata-pine, resulting in a lack of market buffering associated with limited product diversity. Radiata pine provides for versatile timber products, but is not suitable for some demanding specialty end uses. Cypresses are better matched to many of these specialty end uses, allowing exploitation of market niches. The forestry industry can improve risk management and market buffering by diversifying and investing in high- value alternative species such as cypresses.

Cypress plantings are only a small percentage of the plantation forest estate in New Zealand. Nevertheless, there has been a slow but steady increase in plantings of cypresses over the last two decades, in spite of a recent decrease in overall forest plantings. Confidence in cypress forestry was set back when cypress canker became a serious problem in the mid 1990s in some parts of NZ, particularly with macrocarpa. Lusitanica has since become more prominent because of its much greater resistance to cypress canker. Although plantings are still at a low level compared with radiata pine, there is currently a good distribution of cypress plantings in all age classes, providing a continuity of resource.

Apart from the farm forestry sector and a few corporate growers, there tends to be a lack of confidence in growing cypress species. This is largely due to significant knowledge gaps regarding establishing and managing cypress stands, limited information on economic returns, market uncertainty, and an overall lack of infrastructure in the supply chain. There are also concerns about the currently higher silvicultural costs in cypress forestry compared with radiata-pine forestry. A recent market survey identified that a major concern for those processing and utilising cypress was a lack of available resource, yet ironically, a survey of growers indicated that a major impediment to more planting was market uncertainty.

Significant knowledge gaps have been identified by researchers in consultation with industry  [page3image606531216] a comprehensive list of knowledge gaps is presented in Part B of this report. This list needs to be prioritized and pruned down by industry in consultation with research providers. Many of the identified knowledge gaps can be remedied by obtaining and analysing existing data. There is already a considerable body of knowledge regarding growing cypress species and utilising cypress timber products, but this is somewhat fragmented. Transfer of technology has been good within the farm forestry sector, but somewhat lacking within the wider industry. The Cypress Action Group, of the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association, has been instrumental in encouraging the transfer of knowledge and technology within the farm forestry sector, but this group does not speak for the industry as a whole. Some of the information that the wider industry has indicated it needs to know before increasing investment into cypresses is already in existence, but obviously is not easily accessible or in a form that can be readily received. This has been improved in part by the recent publication of the cypress handbook in the NZFFA electronic handbook series, which is freely available on-line.

Investment in research will directly benefit the forestry industry with improved knowledge and technology transfer resulting in increased returns to growers, processors and end users. Increased knowledge on siting, establishment and management of cypress stands would help reduce the perceived higher risks currently associated with growing cypresses. Market research is needed to quantify current and potential future demand in local and international cypress consumer markets; including how much of the imported western-red-cedar market can be substituted for locally grown cypress. The market for imported western-red-cedar is both an opportunity and a threat, depending on whether it is either substituted by, or substituted for, NZ-grown cypress timber. Also, carbon sequestration, plus pressure for species biodiversity and FSC compliance, may create opportunities and positively impact the economics of cypress forestry.

The diversified species section of the newly formed Future Forests Research Ltd (FFR) is ideally positioned to provide the needed infrastructure for investment in research to benefit the cypress industry. Development of a co-funding relationship between government and industry for research initiatives, improvement in technology transfer, and lobbying of government would all be better facilitated by the diverse species group in FFR, particularly if there is a strong cypress sub-theme. FFR would allow a more direct partnership between industry and researchers, and subsequently, ensure that research is strongly focussed on industry needs.

A cypress industry workshop was held in Rotorua, 28th August 2007, and a cypress working group formed. There was unanimous support for the formation of a cypress sub-theme within FFR. The cypress working group will bring a very pertinent perspective on the development of the industry as a whole, and provide a mechanism for industry consultation regarding research priorities. It was recognised that success of the cypress sub theme would be dependent on industry investment. It was subsequently recommended that a report be prepared to encourage wider industry support for cypress research and development.

Download the full report (PDF 952 kb)


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