New Zealand wood processors run the risk of missing out on the massive amounts of processed wood likely to be required for Japan’s rebuilding, according to Wood Council of New Zealand chairman Doug Ducker.
He says not only will the Japanese need to import large quantities of wood and wood by-products for reconstruction of northern Japan, but the quake and tsunami have also destroyed parts of Japan’s own wood processing industry and caused other plants to stop manufacturing.
Mr Ducker says New Zealand wood supply was “under-utilised”. There would be opportunities for New Zealand companies to supply Japan with plywood and MDF for use in flooring.
But the New Zealand industry also had to face the risk that the logs it had been supplying to China could be turned into wood by Chinese mills for the Japan rebuild, he says.
The disaster in Japan had the potential to revive the fortunes of New Zealand’s wood processing industry that had been affected by the domestic downturn, according to Mr Ducker, who is also managing director of Japanese-owned Pan Pac Forest Products.
Mr Ducker says a mill in Japan that supplied 25% of that country’s total plywood needs had been destroyed.
Pan Pac’s owner, Tokyo-based Oji Paper, has reported no major damage at its 17 mills in Japan, but has shut down five plants in north-east Japan.
International forestry analysts are noting that Japan has substantially increased the use of wood in housing construction because it has proven to be more earthquake-resistant than concrete.
United States-based analysts are expecting a big boost in demand for North American timber suppliers. Canadian and United States timber producers are well regarded in Japan as exporters of high-quality, earthquake-resistant wood for building.
Reported in the Timber & Forestry newsletter, Paul Newman of British Columbia’s Council of Forest Industries said producers had been working with the Japanese to develop innovative products such as cross-laminated timber ever since the Kobe quake in 1995.
“There has been a lot of attention in Japan on earthquakes, and wood construction is seen as a positive element in an earthquake-ready society,” he said.
Mr Ducker says together with the likely demand for processed wood to rebuild Christchurch, the New Zealand wood processing industry now has a “double dip” revival opportunity.