Roger Dickie



Log export prices rise again

Export log prices jump higher on low shipping rates and currency decline - New Zealand export log prices jumped higher this month, as falling oil prices pushed down shipping rates while a decline in the kiwi dollar made the country's goods more attractive to overseas buyers. The average wharf-gate price for New Zealand A-grade logs rose to $115 a tonne in January, from $104 a tonne in December, according to AgriHQ's monthly survey of exporters, forest owners and sawmillers. 

The in-market price of A-grade logs in China, New Zealand's largest market, remained stable at US$117/JAS - a benchmark measure - amid steady inventory levels at Chinese ports. However, prices for the logs in New Zealand were bolstered by shipping rates to China that were 7 percent lower than last month and 26 percent lower than a year ago. Some exporters reported the lowest shipping rates in over 20 years while AgriHQ is recording the second-lowest shipping rate to China since 2003. A decline in the kiwi dollar, which has slid more than 5 percent against the greenback so far this year, also helped underpin local returns. 

"The lower New Zealand dollar combined with close to record-low shipping rates is helping maintain wharfgate pricing, despite the uncertainty in the export market, "AgriHQ analyst Emma Dent said in her report. "Wharfgate log prices are expected to remain relatively flat through February before easing through March." Demand is expected to slow in China over the next month due to Chinese New Year, before picking up again, she said. 

"Following Chinese New Year, off-take from ports is expected to increase as China heads into the spring months," Dent said. "The warmer months will see higher construction levels and thus higher consumption of wood products. 

"Overall, 2016 is expected to show some improvement over 2015, particularly in the second half of the year," she said. 

Meanwhile, in the New Zealand domestic market, the average pruned log price edged up to $168 a tonne from $167 a tonne last month, marking the highest level since 2002, AgriHQ said. In the Central North Island, where demand is outweighing supply, the price hit $173 a tonne. 

"With further increases expected throughout the year, it is likely we will get close to, if not surpass, record highs," Dent said. "The unprecedented demand for pruned logs has seen the market become more diverse, with some mills now taking log lengths they weren't previously. This is allowing forest owners to get the maximum yield out of pruned stands." 

Structural log prices held steady at $103 a tonne, although prices are seen increasing towards the end of January and into February amid strong demand from Christchurch and Auckland, she said. 

Roundwood log prices, which have been hit by the weak dairy sector, are expected to increase this year on strong demand from horticulture and viticulture, she said. Roundwood prices are currently at $81 a tonne, having fallen from a high of $86 a tonne to a low of $77 a tonne last year. 

Pulp log prices remained steady at $51 a tonne and the market is expected to be "challenging" in the first quarter of this year as global prices decline on large volumes of lower priced product from Scandinavia and Russia being exported to Asia. 

Good rises in log prices expected in the first quarter of 2016
Be careful what you wish for.

I have heard this sage advice on several occasions throughout my career, and each time, on reflection, it takes on more richness and meaning.

It comes to mind when observing the rapid export log price rises in the past three months. While on face-value a boon to forest owners [the “wish”], the down-side is the increased volatility it portends and the damage it causes many participants in the sector – especially those that gear up for a market upturn [the “be careful”].

While price movements in the past have been more commonly “up the stairs and down the elevator”, it now looks more like elevator all the way.

December saw export log prices rise $8-$15 from November (November prices were up by about the same amount on October prices). Domestic prices were also pulled up but by a smaller amount. However, there are expectations of much larger rises in the first quarter of 2016 (most domestic log prices are negotiated quarterly) – see Market Round-up below.

Export Log Market

Log inventory levels are static to down in all markets and log demand is steady. Log supply is increasing now but on an international scale is still well balanced with demand.

China log inventory is steady at 2.69 mill m3 and has been around this level for the last couple of months. Daily offtake over the past month has been around 45,000 m3/day – which is less than the year-to-date average of 51,000 m3/day but there has been some extreme winter weather in the north with 50-year record snow falls causing lower offtake.

Having said that, price resistance is being faced by NZ log exporters. Customers are wary about the recent price increase and with winter hitting hard in the northern regions positive sentiment is a little difficult to find. Credit has been tightened for some customers and there has been confirmation of some exporters fixing lower prices in December.

Exporters are biasing customers with their own processing capacity as their demand tends to be more reliable and they generally have good access to trade credit.

The Indian market is showing solid demand with favourable prices even after the ramp up in prices in China. This market should provide some relief to lower Chinese demand which inevitably shows up around Lunar New Year (early February next year).

With A-grade priced at around US$120/JAS m3 in China there is some incentive for other supply regions such as the Pacific North West to increase log export volumes. They usually receive a US$10-15/m3 price premium over Radiata pine due to the inherent higher log qualities of Douglas fir and Hemlock. However, the northern winter will limit any increase in supply and we do not expect to see any significant increase in supply from either Russia or the Pacific North West until March/April of next year.

Ocean freight continues to track historically very low rates, based on over-supply in the Handy-size vessel sector and very low bunker (ship fuel oil) prices. Neither of these are expected to increase significantly within the next year.

In terms of outlook, other than some weak NZ exporters taking unnecessary price reductions, the export log market looks reasonably sound. There is a risk that January prices fall, based on a CFR price drop. The rest will depend mainly on movement in the NZ$:US$ cross rate. If we get some welcome price stability, it will help the market consolidate and hopefully start operating on a less speculative basis.


Chart courtesy Pacific Forest Products

For the medium term, China will continue to strongly influence the New Zealand log market. This year, China imported more than 10% of the world’s wood products (logs, lumber, pulp etc). The new Five Year Plan commences next year and has an objective of doubling 2010 GDP by 2020 (implying an annual growth rate of 6.5%). And this growth requires a massive shift from economic activity dominated by capital investment to activity dominated by services and the consumption. As we see the Plan unfold, we will be watching closely for indicators of how it might impact on our log market in the near and medium term.

Domestic Log Market

The theme of relative buoyancy in key wood products markets continued – domestic, Australia, USA, Asian and Europe. Although off its year low of 0.63 (NZ$:US$), the kiwi at around 0.67 is still well off this year’s starting position of 0.78 and is favourable for wood products exporters. Most commentators are calling for further kiwi downside which will further support wood products exporters. This may well be needed as 2016 is shaping up for a scramble for log supply as domestic purchasers face strong competition from export markets for some key grades.

The latest BNZ confidence survey produced strong positive sentiment in construction, property development and the housing market (particularly provincial markets). Staff shortages and cost escalation is also being reported in these sectors. This is supportive of demand for wood products. Interestingly, the Auckland housing market is flattening off with speculation that this could be due to the recent new government restrictions on foreign purchasers.

The USA is finally posting consistently favourable economic data, especially better employment figures and has now signalled the end of quantitative easing and the start of interest rate hikes. So long as this doesn’t overly suppress economic growth, this should augur well for NZ exporters of wood products to this market.

Although the Australian housing market is starting to falter, demand for NZ wood products is expected to remain steady. A cooling in the hot Melbourne and Sydney housing markets is beneficial to avoid a potentially much larger fall should the market be pushed to greater heights. 

Market Round-up: 

Here are some comments gleaned from market participants this month –

“Significant upwards pressure on domestic structural and domestic pruned to compete with recent export pricing. Just commencing Q1 2016 pricing negotiations with some mills stating if we have to pay export equivalent to get marginal supply we will to keep the mills running."

“Up $10-$13 for S grade logs for Q1 2016 (although no signatures on contracts yet – some smaller mills asking for 2 lots of $5 increases). One big buyer is very hungry for S20 / M20 type logs. LVL still strong demand."

“Pruned market is dead for some domestic purchasers – some started to take P30s as P40’s getting too expensive 2-3 months ago. Due to price the P30 may be out of reach as well.”

“Pruned demand is running hot around Gisborne and Hawkes Bay."

“Large domestic purchaser is paying the same price as export. They will buy some after Christmas. Another large purchaser wants as much as possible but is paying November prices as they can’t match export parity for December."

“Out of district pruned log purchaser is wanting to source pruned early in the New Year from Gisborne side. They will have to pay about $255/tonne to make it worth the extra trucking cost."

“On the unpruned side of things – local purchaser wants S30 logs. Will pay about 127/tonne delivered. Close to export prices.”

“Timber Industry very buoyant at present, with run up to Christmas very busy. 2016 looking very promising too.”

“Sawmilling steady. An oversupply due to manufacturing capacity increase is coming.”

PF Olsen Log Price Index to December 2015

The PF Olsen log price index rose eight points from $111 last month to $119 this month. It is now $34 higher than its cyclical low of $85 in November 2011 and $16 above the two-year average and $17 above the five-year average.

Basis of Index: This Index is based on prices in the table below weighted in proportions that represent a broad average of log grades produced from a typical pruned forest with an approximate mix of 40% domestic and 60% export supply.

For the full article see PF Olsen's Wood Matters.

NZ export log prices jump to 7-month high
NZ export log prices jump to 7-month high on pick up in Chinese demand- New Zealand export log prices jumped to a seven-month high in November as demand picked up in China, the country's largest market.

The average wharf gate price for New Zealand A-grade logs rose to $92 a tonne from $83 a tonne in October, marking the highest level since April, according to AgriHQ's monthly survey of exporters, forest owners and sawmillers. The AgriHQ Log Price Indicator, which measures log prices weighted by grade, increased to 92.51 from 88.41 last month.

Log prices increased sharply this month as Chinese demand picked up to 70,000 cubic metres a day towards the end of October, and about 50,000-60,000 cubic metres a day in November. The pickup in demand comes after log exporters reduced shipments to China following weak market conditions, and has caused inventory levels on Chinese ports to fall to between 2.3-to- 2.6 million cubic metres from about 3 million cubic metres last month and 4.7 million cubic metres in August, AgriHQ said. Some now expected inventories to drop below 2 million cubic metres, AgriHQ said.

"The main cause of this sharp increase has been a reduction in supply and high off-take from Chinese ports. Due to the poor market conditions some exporters delayed harvesting over winter while others diverted supplies to other markets," said AgriHQ analyst Emma Dent. "The current lack of supply has resulted in a knee-jerk reaction from Chinese traders who are now seeking to source product to fill contracts."

Prices are expected to firm through December, although the market remains volatile, Dent said. 

"The market has the potential to overshoot in its price recovery, in which case prices will need to drop for the market to find the right balance," she said. "Improved market conditions mean supply to China is likely to increase which would place downward pressure on prices."

Lower shipping rates and a favourable New Zealand exchange rate were helping underpin the local export market, she said.

Meanwhile, prices for New Zealand domestic logs were steady with pruned logs at $167 a tonne from $164 a tonne last month, and structural logs at $103 a tonne from $105 a tonne.

Domestic log processors are struggling to source supply in some regions due to competition from the export market, Dent said.

Logs, wood, and wood articles are New Zealand's third-largest commodity export behind dairy products and meat.

Source: Scoop via BusinessDesk 

Revised ETS may boost carbon forestry
"The discussion document is refreshing in its candour. It clearly states that New Zealand needs to reduce its carbon emissions and for this to happen, policy settings need to change," says Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes.

"It acknowledges that carbon prices need to be higher so that businesses have the incentive to invest in reducing their emissions in New Zealand. Most importantly for forestry, it emphasises that there needs to be much more long-term policy certainty than we have seen since the ETS was launched in 2008."

He says carbon stored in forests planted after 1989 enabled New Zealand to meet its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, despite a surge in emissions elsewhere in the economy.

"These forests were already in the ground when the ETS was launched. Since then, the favourable treatment under the ETS of other sectors, relative to forestry, and extreme carbon price volatility have contributed to a net reduction in the planted forest area," Rhodes says.

"If things don't change, emissions will gather pace in the 2020s as the spike of forests planted the 1990s are harvested. Fortunately the government recognises this and wants to identify changes to the NZETS that could help increase the rate of forest planting."

The discussion document poses a number of questions for public consultation, but rules out including agriculture in the ETS, even though this is the source of 50% of the nation's emissions.

Rhodes says it is difficult to fathom how agriculture could be ruled 'out of scope'. It is also contrary to the recommendations of the government's own 2011 independent review of the NZETS, which envisaged agriculture being slowly phased into the scheme.

"All investors in land in New Zealand need to be given the same market signals about their role in reducing emissions. This includes those aspects of the ETS that encourage carbon forestry. It is important that land owners – who can be farmers – factor in carbon as an income stream additional to that from the eventual log harvest," he says.

Forest owners would also like to see the phase out of subsidies to emitters, particularly given that record low carbon price levels have made this assistance unnecessary over the past few years.

Carbon price stability is particularly important to forest owners because of the long-term nature of their crop.

"If the ceiling price for carbon is to continue, logic suggests there should also be guidance on what the minimum price will be. All investors will want to know the points at which the government will or will not intervene in the market."


Source Rural News New Zealand

New Zealand dairy prices set to rise next year
International dairy prices are at a "particularly bad" part of the cycle, but are expected to improve substantially in the first half of next year, rural lending specialist Rabobank says.

New York-based Tim Hunt, who leads Rabobank's global dairy research team, said the market remained "fundamentally bearish".

Last week, prices fell by 7.9 per cent, at the latest GlobalDairyTrade auction - the third decline in row. Whole milk powder prices, the key product for determining Fonterra's farmgate milk price, fell by 11 per cent to US$2148 a tonne. Fonterra's farmgate milk sits at $4.60 a kg of milksolids - well short of the $5.30 kg required to break even. The forecast will be reviewed early next month.

Rabobank expects wholemilk power prices to recover to US$2500 a tonne by the first quarter of next year and to US$3000 by the middle of the year.

Hunt and other analysts have pointed the finger at the European Union, which has continued to raise production despite low prices, for the ongoing supply/demand imbalance that has depressed prices.

"Demand remains weakish," he said. "We are struggling to turn off the supply growth around the world and we have a significant inventory to deal with.

"The fundamental message here is that the market is still too weak to sustain ongoing recovery in prices this calendar year."

Hunt said the global supply/demand imbalance remained at the core of the problem.

"This is one of the problems and one of the particular characteristics of this downward cycle.

We believe we have seen a particularly bad cycle that is going to take at least another six months to come out of, but we don't believe we have seen a structural change in the medium term market place.
Rabobank rural specialist Tim Hunt.

"New Zealand is the only region where milk prices have fallen to extremely low levels, triggering those reductions in supply that we are looking for to rebalance this market. In Europe, the weak euro, the co-operative propping up of milk prices, and the quota systems removal, has meant that supply growth has been stronger there than it ordinarily would be."

In the US, production is still growing but only just. The milking herd declined slightly for the second straight month while prices begin to further decline. In the key state of California, production was off by 5.5 per cent compared with October last year.

Russia's ban on dairy imports from the rest of Europe had meant a lot of product was finding its way on the secondary markets of Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa. This, in turn, meant those regions were sitting on sizeable inventories and were less inclined to step back into the market.

But Hunt said the market's problems were cyclical and did not signify structural change.

"We believe we have seen a particularly bad cycle that is going to take at least another six months to come out of, but we don't believe we have seen a structural change in the medium term market place."

He said that as low prices found their way to the global farm gate the supply growth would be shut off. However, low prices would encourage demand and that in turn would lead to prices moving substantially up.

We still expect New Zealand to benefit from rising global trade. New Zealand may be entering a period of slower growth but the growth story is not over. This is still plenty of opportunity over the next five to 10 years.
Tim Hunt

"In the medium term, we still believe that economic growth in emerging markets will drive increased demand for dairy and will sustain a much higher trading range than we have seen."

In the US, larger scale farming has resulted in lower costs and lower feed costs have driven production higher over the past five years. He said the substantially stronger US dollar is expected to curtail US dairy exports. Dairying in New Zealand still faced a positive outlook.

"We still expect New Zealand to benefit from rising global trade. New Zealand may be entering a period of slower growth but the growth story is not over. This is still plenty of opportunity over the next five to 10 years."


source: NZ Herald

Chinas Black Monday is New Zealand's Green Tuesday
August 2015 Update
** Chinas Black Monday is New Zealand's Green Tuesday
** Why is Agriculture becoming so popular with investors


The news of Chinas Black Monday might have been more abrupt than most commentators had predicted - however it certainly wasn't something they didn't see coming. As the Chinese Stock exchange dropped 9% it sent reverberations around the world - nearly all markets were effected. Its seems in the most part that the markets recovered as the day went on, but it reiterated why Agricultural based investments are becoming so popular.

In the current investing climate, defined largely by economic uncertainty, low interest rates and volatile equity markets; investors are seeking out assets and sectors that display certain characteristics.

Of particular interest are assets supported by solid, long-term fundamentals. Assets that offer preservation of capital, low volatility and an opportunity to generate income, mark the highest. Throw in an investment performance that is not correlated to the performance of traditional financial markets and most boxes are easily ticked. From investing in shares to investing in farmland, agriculture investments tick many boxes for today’s investors looking to the future, and remain high on the agenda of both institutions and private individuals alike.

** Rising Demand and Diminishing Supply - the Basis for Agriculture Investments

If the goal is to acquire assets that are non-correlated and inflation-linked, and which retain value throughout all economic cycles, then the best bet is of course well-managed,productive agricultural land.
For many investors, the ‘Real Asset’ approach is preferred as it means the investment is secured by land ownership giving not only capital appreciation, but also capital preservation and income in perpetuity for generations to come. And by investing in productive farming in another country / economy e.g. New Zealand it gives further diversification to the portfolio.

Prospective forest farmland investors should understand however, that specific expertise is required during the acquisition and due diligence process in order to identify and manage suitable assets.

** New Zealand's Green Tuesday?

To find out how we can help you take advantage of our favourable exchange rate with land ownership in New Zealand please get in touch.

Agricultural assets have outperformed the vast majority of traditional asset classes over most timelines, delivering highly favourable risk-adjusted returns for those with well managed exposure to the asset class. Well managed agricultural land is an asset which remains productive in perpetuity.


Will Dickie

Dairy Prices set for substantial recovery by mid 2016
The recent collapse in dairy prices does not equate to long-term structural market change in the sector, rural lending specialist Rabobank said.

The bank said in a commentary that while the sector was experiencing a severe cyclical downturn, a "substantial" improvement in prices was still expected by mid-2016.

Rabobank NZ chief executive Ben Russell said the long-term fundamentals for the dairy sector have not altered.

"Contrary to some recent analysis and commentary on the New Zealand dairy sector, Rabobank's view is the current price trough is part of an extended negative phase of the commodity cycle and not a structural, permanent change to supply and demand dynamics," he said.

"While the season ahead will undoubtedly be difficult for dairy farmers, the bank is firmly of the view that prices will recover to more sustainable levels over the medium term," he said.

"Current market conditions are not the 'new normal', but a highly abnormal part of a difficult cycle," he said.

New Zealand remained well-placed to continue to play an important in this improved future for the global dairy industry. "But first it must ride out the storm," the bank said in a report.

Rabobank senior dairy analyst Michael Harvey said the extent of the market collapse was - for most in the industry - "beyond expectation" and inevitably led to milk price forecasts for the 2015/16 season being slashed.

A 19 per cent fall in prices over the course of two GDT auctions in July and August took the market down from already painful levels to a low not seen since 2002.

"Given NZ production costs have increased significantly since 2002, you have to go even further back to finding pricing this far below the cost of production," Harvey said.

The report said the global dairy market had already been well on its way to a correction in 2014 - from previous record-high prices.

"Unfortunately, this downturn was then exacerbated by several other developments, including China slashing its purchases, Russia banning dairy imports from the EU, plus EU dairy quotas being removed in April this year," it said.

Rabobank said that while dairy prices were unlikely to be much improved over the next six months - as the market "strives to turn off the taps of supply growth in the face of weak demand requirements" - the factors that will trigger a turnaround were now in place.

In the medium term, Rabobank said that in wholemilk powder equivalent terms, prices would need to hit between US$3000-$4000 tonne in order to balance the global market.

On the NZX, whole milk futures prices have rallied on the prospect of less product being put up for sale by Fonterra, suggesting physical prices may start to rebound at tomorrow's GlobalDairyTrade (GDT) auction.

Fonterra has forecast a 2 per cent fall in milk production this season, but analysts said increased culling, declining use of supplementary feed, and less off-farm grazing could lead to a bigger decline, which would also be supportive for prices.

IKEA and Apple are buying up Forests
Future looks bright for those with foresight as IKEA and Apple are buying up whole forests. 
IKEA bought 83,000 acres of forest last month. In April, Apple bought 36,000 acres. What’s the
reasoning behind these retail giants buying their own forests? To manage them. 

Last year, we saw major technology and retail companies buying up wind and solar farms. Walmart,
Facebook, Apple, IKEA, Google — all decided to either build or buy renewable energy farms. Nearly
as many made pledges to start using fully renewable energy sources: IKEA said it would become
“energy independent”. Facebook is already using all-renewables-powered data centres to manage all
your likes. Now, some of them are going further down the supply chain to manage the provenance
of their materials — by buying up the forests that source their paper and wood. 

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that IKEA had bought up almost one hundred thousand
acres of forest in Romania and the Baltic — this, after the company had been accused of “brutal”
logging practices in Russia and cutting “old forests that have high conservation value,” according to
the WSJ. The company doesn’t log in Russia anymore, and instead will focus on farming its Romanian
forests, managing its purchase to create a renewable source for its operations. After all, IKEA uses
one per cent of the world’s wood supply, a number it’s trying to scale back by half. It’s all part of the
company’s plan to become “forest positive” in the next five years, growing more wood than it uses. 

Similarly, Apple recently bought up a 36,000 acres of forest in Maine and North Carolina. These
areas are “working forests,” or regions that act as renewable sources of wood and paper pulp for
industry. Apple and the Conservation Fund, which is collaborating on the project, says that these
“working forests” are increasingly being developed. That’s not only bad news for them commercially,
but bad news for forests that were once outside the scope of industry — as Apple’s Lisa Jackson
explained in a post about the purchase: 

We are in the midst of one of the greatest land transfers in history. In the last 15 years, we’ve
already lost 23 million acres of forestland that provided the pulp, paper, and solid wood material for
products we all use. That’s roughly an area the size of Maine. As land continues to be sold and
change hands at an alarming rate, an estimated 45 million more acres are currently in the crosshairs
of development. 

The goal of the Conservation Fund’s work is to create limits on how those working forests can be
used beyond producing paper products. These are designed to “ensure sustainable harvests and
restrict the subdivision or conversion of land to non-forest uses,” the group writes. 

Source:FridayOffcuts and Gizmodo  

Log prices up after 3 months of falls
The export market for New Zealand forestry products is stabilising.

It has been helped by the weakening kiwi dollar, reduced inventories in China and increased domestic housing demand in the US, say industry analysts.

Meanwhile, domestic demand was strong, fuelled by buoyant housing markets in Auckland, growth in the Tauranga housing market, and the continuing Canterbury rebuild, they said.

Export log prices rose in June after three months of significant falls, said Peter Weblin, Rotorua-based chief marketing manager for forestry management company PF Olsen.

Most at-wharf-gate dollar June pricing appeared to be based on A-grade at about US$100 ($147), up from a low of US$95 in May, he said. Log stocks in China continued to fall steadily through May, reducing by nearly 200,000cu m to an estimated 3.87 million cubic metres. That was down from the peak of 4.27 million cu m at the start of April.

But Mr Weblin said stocks needed to get under 3 million cu m to bring confidence back, while the main driver of log imports - the Chinese construction market - was still slow.

The dollar was definitely helping, especially for processors meeting strong demand for processed clear boards in the US and Europe.

"The depreciating kiwi really helps the finished product guys because it works on a much bigger value."

Dennis Neilson, director /founder of Rotorua-based forestry consultants DANA, said despite the doom and gloom stories about the Chinese economy beginning to melt down, New Zealand was again the biggest exporter into China, with about 1 million cu m of logs each month. "That is as much as last year," said Mr Neilson. "And while prices have declined for some grades, they've held up for others. Our exchange rate and low shipping costs means the net return to many forest owners - particularly in the Central North Island within reasonable transport distance of Port of Tauranga - remains attractive, so harvesting continues."

Mr Neilson said there were a number of factors including increased US housing starts, which were slowing US exports to China, and attracting imports from Canada.


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