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Timber and wood product markets

The Queensland forest and timber industry relies very heavily on the building and construction industry to provide a market for its output. Timber has a long history in Queensland housing, and the forest and timber industry continues to adapt and innovate with improved building systems that are quicker and cheaper to build, are more reliable and have better performance relative to traditional systems. The main drivers of demand for forest products include the residential or dwelling building cycle, demographic factors, economic conditions, government economic policy, development of new and alternative products and changing consumer preferences.

Other key Queensland forest and timber products include basic materials that require limited processing (eg. poles, round timbers, railway sleepers, landscape timbers, fence posts, sawdust, woodchips and firewood), plus highly transformed products where value has been added through complex processes (eg. fabricated and structural wood products, paper products and wooden furniture).

The Queensland forest and timber industry is a relatively small component of the international timber product market. The market for forest and timber products is vulnerable to competition from interstate and processed and semi-processed imported material, particularly from producers in Asia, New Zealand and Europe. Alternative building materials, such as aluminum, steel and concrete are also competing strongly in some market sectors, and are increasingly displacing timber products.

Queensland is a net importer of manufactured wood products and the trade deficit in those products is also projected to continue to grow. China and other Asian economies are expected to have an increased capacity to manufacture and export wood products by 2040. Using ABS data, the department estimates that Queensland imported $880 million of forest and timber industry products in 2010-11 (Table 1). Forest and timber industry imports to Queensland have increased by more than $340 million (not accounting for inflationary impacts) over the last decade.

Sector Imports
($A million)
Forestry and logging 9
Log sawmilling and timber dressing 158
Other wood product manufacturing 134
Pulp, paper, paper board and converted paper product manufacturing 299
Wooden furniture manufacturing 280
Total 880

Source: ABS 2011

Table 1: Queensland forest and wood industry imports (2010-11)

About two-thirds of Queensland's forest and timber imports ($579 million) in 2010-11 comprised paper and wooden furniture products. This reflects that fact that the Queensland industry has limited capability in paper product and manufacturing, and therefore limited scope to compete with imports. Domestic wooden furniture production capacity has also reportedly declined over the last 20 years.

Sawn timber

Sawn timber products essentially comprise the output of the log sawing and timber dressing sector of the industry. These include a number of rough sawn timber products such as sleepers and palings, as well as dressed sawn timber products such as structural timber, floorboards and weatherboards. These products are extensively used in the construction of residential dwellings.

The residential housing construction market (both new houses and alterations and additions to existing houses) consumes most of the sawn timber produced locally, as well as engineered wood products such as laminated veneer lumber, I-beams and wood-based panels.

No data is available on the amount of sawn timber sold in the Queensland market from interstate producers, or the amount of Queensland production sold in interstate markets. Anecdotal industry evidence suggests that although some Queensland timber is sold in the southern states, a significant volume of sawn timber produced in other states is sold in the Queensland market. Some of this demand is driven by a market preference for resin-free radiata pine grown in the southern states, rather than the southern pine produced in Queensland.

Last updated 28 March 2013