Countryside Matters 2014 - page 38-39

Countryside
Matters
36
Countryside
Matters
37
TOMORROW’S TIMBER
TOMORROW’S TIMBER
A lorry, ladenwith logs
fromthesouthwest,
rumblesuptheM5taking
itscargotoasawmill
manymilesaway. It’s
acommonsightwhichsome in
theregion’s forestrysectorwould
liketosee less.Logs fromClinton
DevonEstatesaretakentoWales,
EastEngland,andevenGermany
tobeturned intoaddedvalue
timberproducts.Now, twopieces
of researchhavestrengthenedthe
case forsignificantprivatesector
investment insawmill facilities
closertohome.TheForestry
Commission’sNationalForest
Inventoryprovidesa25year
forecast forthe futureofsoftwood
productionwithintheUKandthe
numbersmake interestingreading
forthosewhogrow,processand
marketwoodproducts inthe
SouthWest.
FormanyyearstheNorth
EastofEnglandhasbeenseen
astheunassailable leader in
softwoodresourcesbutthe25
yearprojectionsshowthatas large
swathesofconiferous forestsare
harvested, thesouthwestcould
overtakethem.Thesecondpiece
of researchwascommissioned
usinggrant fundingtoresearchthe
attitudesofgrowers inthe lightof
newopportunities.
Thesenewopportunitiesare
particularly important forSouth
Westgrowerswhocurrentlyreceive
substantially lower forestgate
prices fortheirsawlogsduetothe
highcostoftransportingtheir
material forprocessingandonto
pointofsale.
Researchersconducted20
interviews, representing 18
businesses intheregionfinding
thatgrowersareunsurprisingly
interested inany initiativewhich
results inthem improvingtheir
margins.Thereportdiscussesthe
potentialviabilityof increasing
theSouthWest’ssawmillcapacity,
possiblywithanewstateoftheart
plantcapableofhanding75,000
tonnesperyear.
Oneofthechallenges forthe
timber industry inthisregion
hasalwaysbeenthenatureof
woodlanddistribution. Herethe
softwoodtreesareoften found
insmallerparcelsof landunder
differentownershipwithsome
ownersmoreactivelyengaged
inwoodlandmanagementthan
others. Oftenthetreesare in less
accessibleareasmakingextraction
moredifficultthan inthe larger
plantations.
Theother issuehasbeenthe
mixednatureofthewoodland in
termsofspeciesandage. Larger
logsrequiredifferentequipment
toprocessanda limitednumber
ofoperationshavethe facilities
toturnthem intotimber for
constructionortreated fencing
products. Insomecasesthishas
meant larger logshavingtobe
transported furtherafieldwith
decreasingmargins forthegrower.
Opportunityknocks
Ifacompanyisgoingtogotothecitytoborrowthe£30mto£100mitmightneed
tobuildanewfacility, the lender isgoingtoneedsomeassurances.They’llwant
toknowifthereisacontinuityofsupplyandcantheborrowergetacommitment
orcontracttoensurethatsupply. Ourdatahashelpedtoanswersomeofthese
pivotalquestions;somuchsothatsincethepublicationofthereportsthereare
at least 10newfacilitiesunderdiscussionor investigationalongwithotherplans
toextendthescaleoroperating lifeofexistingsites.
Theextensionof timber supply inBritainwill definitelyhavean impact onour
national import/exportbalance.Wearecurrentlyoneof the largestconsumers
of imported timber in theworldspendingmanybillionsayear (onlyChinaand
Japan importmore).Themajorityofour importsareconiferous timberused in
constructionand thepaper industry. If you lookback to themid-70swewere
producingaroundhalfamillioncubicmetresofconiferoustimberperyearwhich
was less than5%of theamountwe consumed. Now, we’reproducingaround
25%of own timber andwe can see that figuremoving towards 50% as the
forecastperiodprogresses.
But it isn’tallaboutprofit;anotherdriverbehindtheNationalForestry Inventory
wastheneedtomonitorthebio-diversitybenefitsofwoodlandsandtheirvalue
incarbonabsorption.Weare soon topublishfigureswhichwill show just how
much carbon is stored in our woodlands. In effect, our generation is now set
to reap thebenefitsofawindfall basedon theeffortsandactionofaprevious
generationwhoplantedsomanyforests. Hopefully,wecannowdothesamefor
ourdescendants.
The British government has a policy of ensuring no net deforestation of our
countryside. Itsstanceonthe issueties into internationalaccordssuchasKyoto
andourownUKForestStandard. Thatmeans thatwhen trees reachmaturity
andarefelled,there isanabsolutestipulationthatthoseforestsarereplantedto
acommensurate level.
Inaddition, it isUKpolicy to increasewoodlandarea–ScotlandandWalesboth
intend toexpand theirwoodlandsbyaround50,000hectaresover thenext 10
years;Englandhasatargetofaroundhalfthatamount.ButBritainstillhassome
way togo tomatchothercountriesonaglobal andEuropeanscale.At theend
ofthe last IceAgeBritainwasprobably90%forestbutwiththedevelopmentof
theruraleconomy,agriculture, the industrialrevolutionandthemassivegrowth
inour populationdensity thewoodland cover dwindled toaround4% to6%.
Now,at 13%,weareheading intherightdirection.
There are many alarming statistics about the denuding of our environment
at homeandabroadbut oneof the success stories is the re-establishment of
Britain’swoodlands for thebenefit of our environment, our economyand the
qualityof lifeofourpeople.
“Wearecurrentlyoneof the largest consumersof imported
timber in theworldspendingmanybillionsofpoundsayear.”
ESTATE
ANGLE
Butasthebalanceofpowershifts
intermsofavailablesoftwood
resources, thesebarriersare likely
toseem lesssignificantthanthey
havedone inthepast–particularly
if localsawmillcapacitywasto
increase, improvingpricesatthe
forestgateandoffering agreater
flexibilitytohandleavarietyof log
sizesclosertohome.
Theserecentreportsprovide
thekindofdatathatacommercial
operatorcoulduseasa foundation
ofabusinesscase forcreating
a largervolumesawmill right
here intheSouthWest. Itwould
takesignificant investmentbut
theresource ishereandthese
documentsprove it.
Thenewresearchshowswehave
thevolumeoftimberto justify
expansionandthe lureofbetter
priceswillencourageunengaged
woodlandownerstoactually
managetheirtreesratherthan
lettingthemageuntil thepointthey
areadamagedbyseverestorms.
Aswe load lorries with logs
andsendthemuptheM5,our
region isseeingthemtakeprofit
and jobswiththem. Byprocessing
ourtimberclosertohomewe’dbe
reducingexports,addingvalueto
our locallyproducedmaterialsand
creatingmuchneeded jobs.
JohnWildingMBE isamemberof
thesteeringgroupoftheSouth
WestTimberBusinessDevelopment
Programmeandamemberof
theForestryCommission’sSouth
WestEnglandRegionalAdvisory
Committee.Healsorepresentsthe
EstatesontheEastDevonArea
ofOutstandingNaturalBeauty
PartnershipPanel.
JohnWildingMBE
HeadofForestryandEnvironment
Harvestingtimber inEastDevon
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