Friday Offcuts 1 March 2019
We cover this week a couple of stories that bring home the real concerns – and implications – of reduced log supplies. In Victoria, the state-owned forestry corporation VicForests has just been told to suspend the release of new areas of native forests for logging. The reason, more policy work is needed. Concerns have been raised about the threats to protected wildlife and the impact of recent bushfires and climate change on the state's forests. It’s already a year overdue. Understandably, logging contractors and sawmillers are growing increasingly concerned about their immediate future. With environmental groups again calling for the industry to be wound up, it’s an issue that’s causing many right now significant stress.
In another region, the South-East Queensland Forest Agreement, one of the cornerstones of the state’s timber industry, is also drawing to a close. Since signed way back in 1999, the hardwood resource that was meant to be built up as part of the agreement hasn’t materialised. The underlying reasons are pretty similar to those being faced by the timber industry in Victoria. And like the Victorian’s, local mills, logging and cartage contractors, their families and the communities in which they live, have every right to be apprehensive.
In another major report (the Economic potential for new plantation establishment in Australia: outlook to 2050), released this week, key findings reinforce last week's State of the Forest Report 2018. In short, up to 490,000 hectares of new softwood plantations could be required by 2050 to meet the country’s demand for softwood sawlogs. As a consequence, ABARES is estimating that the volume of imports will more than double by 2050, an opportunity obviously lost to the Australian forestry industry and to the country. Links to the full report are contained in the lead story below.
And finally, the first sale of a forestry block in New Zealand under new Overseas Investment Office regulations has just been announced. The Overseas Investment Amendment Act 2018, which came into effect on October 22 last year, introduced a new regime with three separate tests required for buyers seeking to purchase forestry land or cutting rights. The brokers of the deal say the decision by the OIO was processed quickly - under 4 months c.f. the previous regulations where consents typically took between nine to 12 months. It's also a clear message that New Zealand is open to foreign investment in forestry.
That’s it for this week. Enjoy this week’s read.
This week we have for you:
Demand for softwood exceeds Australian outputA new report, published this week, exploring the long-term potential of establishing new timber plantations in Australia, suggests up to 490,000 hectares of new softwood plantations would be required by 2050 to meet demand of softwood sawlogs.
The Economic potential for new plantation establishment in Australia: outlook to 2050 report is based on a joint work program between Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).
Ric Sinclair, Managing Director of FWPA, said: “There is a lot of interest in using timber products for taller buildings, as well as the traditional detached house market. The new ABARES report reveals that Australia needs to significantly increase the amount of softwood plantations over the coming decades if we want to meet this demand domestically.
“The local softwood plantation estate has been effectively frozen for nearly 30 years and this resource underpins domestic wood processing,” Mr Sinclair said. The key findings of the report are:
1. The plantation sector is critical to the forestry industry
In 2015–16 commercial timber plantations, which were split virtually evenly between softwood and hardwood species, accounted for 87 per cent of Australia’s log production.
2. Domestic demand for sawlogs is growing
ABARES forecasts a shortfall in the volume of softwood sawlogs available for the domestic market of 2.6 million cubic metres. In terms of new softwood plantations, an additional 200,000 to 250,000 hectares would be required by 2050 to make up the shortfall. However, given the uncertainty around softwood sawlog supply and log-equivalent demand in 2050, some estimates suggest the required area could be higher with Omega Consulting indicating that this could be as much as 490,000 hectares.
3. Future plantation investment may not be enough
In order to meet growing demand, the domestic market will become increasingly reliant on imports of sawnwood. ABARES estimates the volume of imports will more than double by 2050. This is a potential missed opportunity for the Australian forestry sector, unless the current softwood timber plantation estate expands to meet growing demand.
4. The good news
The report also modelled five different scenarios to see which market mechanisms could have the most impact on plantation expansion. These included: productivity improvements, changes in agricultural land prices, increases in demand, changes in exchange rates and reductions in the required rate of return (discount rate).
Interestingly, while all the scenarios supported the need for an expansion of the softwood estate, changes in the discount rate had the greatest impact because softwood plantations managed for sawlogs have much longer rotation lengths and therefore pay-off periods. For instance, a 1 per cent reduction in the discount rate to 6 per cent would encourage a further 264,520 hectares of softwood plantation development. In addition, a 5 per cent discount rate could see the softwood estate expand by some 700,000 hectares.
The report notes “While there are some limitations of the modelling framework used in this research, the analysis outlines key factors that could influence future plantations and highlights potential missed opportunities for the forestry sector, if action is not taken.”
Mr Sinclair said the report has identified potential for the forestry industry to grow and potential policy levers to make this happen. “As the old proverb says, the best time to plant trees was yesterday and the second best is to plant them now. Commercial plantations can provide economic, social and environmental benefits for Australia and we need to get back onto a growth path as soon as possible,” he said.
Authored by Linden Whittle, Peter Lock and Beau Hug of ABARES, the full report is available from the FWPA website or by clicking here
Distractions slow your reactions campaign underwayForestry Corporation of NSW kicked off 2019 with a series of safety campaigns and workshops to put safety first after the holiday break. The Safe Start campaign was targeted at forestry drivers, operators and staff to help everyone make the transition back to work.
The campaign focused on two key driver risks – fatigue and distractions, said Forestry Corporation Haulage and Sales Manager, Tijmen Klootwijk. “After a restful break, it can be a challenge getting your body clock back in order, so we have started the year with a safety focus,” Mr Klootwijk said.
“This year we also raised awareness to the growing risk of driver distraction. Our slogan of ‘distractions slow your reactions’ is a reminder of the need to plan your trip and minimise distractions in the vehicle.”
Three workshops were also held around Bathurst and Oberon with Forestry Corporation staff and harvesting contractors to reinforce the dangers of working in the bush. This year’s workshops had a theme of ‘where are your feet?’, said Harvesting and Roading Manager Dan Kirby.
“The workshops are a vital step in making the transition from holidays to the workplace, with January a high-risk time for accidents,” Mr Kirby said. “The idea behind the workshops is to start the year with our eyes and minds open to the risks of working in the bush”.
“In reviewing incidents last year, there were a lot relating to machine rollovers and human slips and trips – they all happened in ‘safe’ areas, not hazardous ones. “They all came down to inattention to what was underfoot; whether that be the foot of a machine or a person.”
Forestry Corporation was very pleased with the support for the safety campaigns. “Forestry Corporation and our contractors are all on the same page when it comes to worker safety,” Mr Kirby said. “At the end of the day, we all want the same thing; for people working in our forests getting home healthy and without incident.”
To find out more about Forestry Corporation’s health and safety programs, visit www.forestrycorporation.com.au
Image: Forestry Corporation’s Softwood General Manager Mike Beardsell (right) and Mark Grech (Operations Manager of Crawford Freightlines in Oberon)
Source: Forestry Corporation of NSW
Blue gum plantation resurgence?Blue gum tree plantations could play a vital role in Australia's future carbon economy, according to forestry industry leaders, but they believe the Federal Government needs to change its current policies to recognise the hardwood's potential for carbon capture.
The managing director of forestry management company PF Olsen, Pat Groenhout, said the current lack of federal policy to recognise the capture and storage of carbon by the nation's hardwood estate was a significant hurdle faced by foresters and investors.
"I'm confident that the people who are responsible for making those decisions are increasingly recognising the important role that plantations are going to play in addressing climate change issues," Mr Groenhout said. "But frankly, from the forest industry's perspective, it makes no sense at all that the things that are most likely to — and the most capable of — capturing and storing carbon in the long-term, aren't being recognised within the current Australian federal policy environment.
"But I guess we have, as an industry, some confidence that that will be resolved at a policy level as we head into the next few years." His comments come as foresters across southern WA are seeing a steady growth and consolidation in the hardwood plantation industry, with the total value of annual output estimated at AU$345 million for the region, providing employment for more than 6,000 people. More >>.
Victorian timber workers facing uncertaintyTimber workers and businesses are sweating on their future, with the Victorian Government delaying the release of plans for industry to access native timber reserves for logging. The timber release plan is a key strategy that dictates where native timber can be logged by the state-owned VicForests.
VicForests told the ABC it had been directed not to proceed with a new timber release plan "until further policy work has been completed". Under questioning in state parliament about the delayed release of the plan, Premier Daniel Andrews said he would seek an update on its progress from officials.
Access to native timber has become increasingly difficult in recent years, with mills forced to receive less supply due to a range of factors, including long-term sustainability of forests, bushfire and native fauna protection. The long-term future of native timber logging is an issue being debated inside the Andrews Government.
Stacey Gardiner from the Australian Forest Contractors Association said the long delay in finalising the timber release plan was causing significant issues for the industry. "We're in a situation where we expect contractors to be stood down," she said.
Nationals party leader Peter Walsh demanded in state parliament that the Premier reveal when the plan would be released. "2,500 jobs and a further 1,400 jobs at Australian Paper in the Morwell area are at risk because your Government has refused to sign the timber released plans that were supposed to be finalised last July," he said.
"So that these jobs are not lost to the Gippsland communities, will you immediately intervene to save these jobs by having the timber release plans signed?" Forestry has been a difficult issue for the Andrews Labor Government as it seeks to balance blue-collar regional jobs with protecting endangered species and a push to create a new national park.
The Great Forest National Park has featured in recent elections with proponents arguing it is necessary to protect species like the Leadbeater's possum, while industry has argued it would kill jobs. In 2017, the Andrews Government intervened and purchased the Heyfield timber mill in Gippsland when its owners announced they were pulling out because they had no guaranteed timber supply.
The Wilderness Society's Amelia Young said the tourism industry, water assets and burgeoning carbon capture sector also needed certainty about future logging. "The timber release plan is being delayed because there is no wood left in the forest, they have been over-logged for far too long, and bushfire has burnt the forest as well," she said. "The best thing the Government can do is to wind up the industry, transition the industry into plantation and create the Great Forest National Park," she said.
Source: ABC News
China unveils development plans for forestry industryChina's top forestry authority has made plans to boost the forestry industry and set development goals. The industry is pledging to improve its gross output by 50 percent by 2025, according to a recent guideline by the National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA).
The output of economic forest products will reach 250 million tonnes by 2025, with total imports and exports of forest products expected to hit 240 billion U.S. dollars. The NFGA said by 2035, the country will see further expansion of the industry with more improved structure and sufficient supply of high-quality forest resources.
To achieve such targets, continued efforts will be made to increase the supply of wood and establish more demonstration bases for the industry. Apart from supporting the diverse development of the forest economy, the NFGA will be dedicated to promoting forest tourism while conserving natural resources.
The administration added it would maximize the use of e-commerce platforms to promote the online-offline integration of forest product sales. China's forestry industry output reached 7.33 trillion yuan (about 1.1 trillion U.S. dollars) in 2018, a 2.88-percent growth from 2017, the NFGA data showed.
Funding announced for NSW forestry industryThe Nationals in Government are investing almost AU$40 million to support innovation and training for NSW’s forestry industry, Minister for Forestry Paul Toole announced in Coffs Harbour.
“We recognise the important role forestry plays in NSW in providing jobs, wood products and supporting manufacturing industries,” Mr Toole said. Nationals candidate for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh said round two of the AU$34 million NSW Forest Industries Innovation Fund loan scheme had opened this week.
“The scheme aims to support innovative projects that improve efficiencies, sustainability and invest in smarter processes or ways to deal with future forestry opportunities and challenges,” Mr Singh said. “Round two of the NSW FIIF will close on 3 May 2019, with potential loan sizes of up to AU$3 million.”
The NSW FIIF loan scheme is administered by the NSW Rural Assistance Authority. Information on the scheme and how to apply is available at www.raa.nsw.gov.au.
Mr Toole said in addition to the FIIF, AU$4.6 million would be used to support a training and certification scheme for forestry contractors that will focus on environment, safety and best practice. The training and certification scheme has been jointly developed by industry and the NSW Government in partnership with the Australian Forest Contractors Association (AFCA).
AFCA chairman Adan Taylor said the scheme would create professional development opportunities for forestry contracting businesses whilst recognising and rewarding those with good practices.
“The development of the scheme will not only be positive for industry in promoting best practice, it also gives the community greater confidence that contracting businesses are operating safely and meeting the necessary compliance requirements,” Mr Taylor said.
Launch of Queensland forestry networkMore than forty state parliamentarians joined over 100 industry stakeholders on Wednesday night to launch the Queensland Parliamentary Friends of the Forest and Timber Industry Network at Parliament House in Brisbane.
Timber Queensland’s Chair James Hyne said this landmark event provided industry an opportunity to showcase its diversity and for MPs to gain a greater appreciation of its bright future. “Queensland’s $3.2 billion forest and timber industry delivers 25,000 direct and indirect jobs predominately in rural and regional communities,” said Mr Hyne.
“We gathered last night to celebrate our contribution and to show we’ve got room to grow. There are exciting trends in timber innovation and we have significant forest resources that can play a greater role in the state’s economic future,” he said.
“This growth potential strengthens our position as Queensland’s third highest value agricultural industry, with significant downstream processing and manufacturing that supports the state’s $44 billion building and construction industry.”
The event was co-hosted by Labor MP for Maryborough Mr Bruce Saunders and Liberal National MP for Gympie Mr Tony Perrett, who are both co-chairs of the new network. They were joined by the Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries, Mr Mark Furner, and the Leader of the Opposition Mrs Deb Frecklington.
James Hyne said he was pleased with the overwhelming response from industry participants and members of parliament who attended the event. “The wide attendance from all sides of politics was a clear demonstration of their support of our renewable and carbon friendly industry,” said Mr Hyne.
The Parliamentary Friends of Queensland’s Forest and Timber Industry Network will strengthen the industry’s engagement with parliamentarians and state policy makers, and build awareness of the multiple economic, social and environmental benefits it delivers for Queensland.
Photo: James Hyne, Timber Queensland Chair, Bruce Saunders MP, Member for Maryborough, Tony Perrett MP, Member for Gympie, and Mick Stephens, Timber Queensland CEO, officially launch the Network at Parliament House.
Source: Timber Queensland
First forestry sale under new OIO regulationsThe first sale of a forestry block in New Zealand under new Overseas Investment Office regulations signals that the country remains open to foreign investment in the sector. Stoneleigh Forest in Waikato has been purchased by Oji Fibre Solutions, a New Zealand pulp, paper and packaging company part-owned by Oji Holdings from Japan.
The 127ha freehold forestry block is located just south of Te Kuiti, less than 120km from OjiFS’s Kinleith Mill in Tokoroa. It comprises 87ha of 25-year-old radiata pine that is pruned and ready for harvest. A further 37ha of radiata was harvested in 2017 and replanted last year. There are also small areas of minor species.
Colliers International Forestry Director Warwick Searle, who brokered the transaction with colleague Angus Robertson, says it is the first forest to be sold to a foreign buyer under the new investment rules. The Overseas Investment Amendment Act 2018, which came into effect on October 22 last year, introduced a new regime of three separate tests for buyers seeking to purchase forestry land or cutting rights.
OjiFS applied to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) for consent to purchase Stoneleigh Forest in early November. The OIO granted approval late last month – the first consent to be issued under its new special forestry test criteria. The special forestry test is the most streamlined in the OIO’s new testing regime. It is aimed at foreign buyers looking to maintain forestry land under its current usage, or to convert rural land to forestry. Searle says the landmark decision shows New Zealand is still open to foreign investment in forestry.
“Our forestry sector remains globally competitive and, crucially, it is backed by a regulatory regime that recognises the importance of overseas investment. It’s particularly pleasing that the OIO processed OjiFS’s consent application so quickly, delivering a decision in under four months. Under the previous regulations, consents typically took between nine to 12 months.”
Searle says OIO consent for another significant forestry sale is expected shortly. “After a period of uncertainty, it’s great to see the OIO is on board with allowing this crucial investment to flow into the country. Overseas funds are not only key investors in New Zealand’s forestry sector – they will also play a major role in helping to deliver the government’s One Billion Trees Programme.”
Searle says he expects more foreign investors to express interest in a substantial forestry asset of more than 4,000ha, which is due to hit the market in the coming week. “There is enormous overseas demand for highly productive assets, as New Zealand’s forestry sector continues to experience significant transformation and growth.”
To accommodate this growing demand, Colliers International has recently expanded its forestry capabilities with the return of rural valuer and registered forestry consultant Angus Malcolm. He is currently based out of Colliers’ Richmond valuation office.
Source: Colliers International
Timber release plan stalledVictoria's state-owned forestry corporation has been told to suspend the release of new areas of native forest for logging, in a decision the timber industry says has put scores of regional small businesses in peril. The Andrews government has intervened to stop VicForests putting out its next timber release plan, due to concerns about threats to protected wildlife and the impact of recent bushfires and climate change on the state's forests.
The timber release plan – a document that identifies coupes that can be logged over the next three to five years – is already more than a year overdue. On Thursday VicForests said the Andrews government had directed it not to proceed with a timber release plan until further policy work was completed.
“In the meantime, we are working with customers and contractors to manage supply under the existing [plan],” Alex Messina, VicForests' general manager of corporate affairs, said. The intervention does not affect logging in coupes that have already been allocated, but timber millers and logging contractors fear they are potentially months away from exhausting their allocated supplies.
Reece Reynolds runs a logging business in Buchan in East Gippsland and said he and others in the industry faced growing uncertainty about their working futures, with a limited number of coupes available on the current plan. “Instead of some people being out of work and others working, in two months’ time we might all be out of work,” Mr Reynolds said.
Simon McConachy from SKM Contracting in Gippsland said he had already been hit hard by the timber shortfall. “At this stage I’m the worst affected,” Mr McConachy said. “I have not harvested a tree since the Australia Day weekend and this is the worst it has ever been. I have sub-contractors, young men with families and I’ve had to tell them to find any work they can.”
An Andrews government spokesman said more time was needed to develop a plan that balanced the interests of industry, the environment and community attitudes. “We’ve asked VicForests for some additional time so we can make sure new timber release plan gets the balance right,” the spokesman said.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald
AU$2 Billion for the Emissions Reduction FundThe Climate Proofing Australia (CPA) alliance has welcomed the Prime Minister’s recent announcement to inject AU$2 Billion into the Emissions Reduction Fund, and calls for at least AU$500 million of the new funds to prioritise land-based carbon solutions.
Carbon sequestration has been the largest source of emissions reduction in the past decade, and adequate funding will not only create more habitat for Australia’s native plants and animals, but also increase resilience and productivity on landscapes over time.
The CPA alliance, led by the Australian Forest Products Association, Farmers for Climate Action, the Red Meat Advisory Council and Greening Australia, has received bipartisan support following its launch in Canberra last week, with a one of its key shared principles to expand the scope and benefits of carbon farming through the ERF.
“Since the introduction of the Emissions Reduction Fund in 2015, over 80 per cent of emissions reductions contracted to date through the ERF have come from agriculture and land sector projects” said Brendan Foran, CEO, Greening Australia.
“This long-term commitment to the ERF is an opportunity to not only boost the capacity of the landscape to contribute to Australia’s carbon mitigation strategy, but to be more ambitious about what it can achieve by encouraging more projects that deliver these co-benefits of biodiversity, productivity, water quality and landholders and employment.”
“To achieve this, CPA calls on the Government to remove existing barriers in the ERF architecture that have limited the land sector’s participation, and direct at least AU$500 million from the AU$2.2 billion ERF fund, including the funds that remain in the program, for land-based projects that also deliver environmental and productivity benefits.”
CPA seeks to bring the conservation, farming and forestry sectors together to work with decision makers on removing some of the existing barriers in the ERF that have limited the land sector’s participation, and to prioritise ERF projects that deliver environmental, social and economic co-benefits.
“The current Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) conditions limit the land sector’s capacity to generate co-benefits associated with carbon sequestration, such as reinstating wildlife habitat, supporting sustainable agriculture, increasing the plantation forestry estate, and cleaner waters in our rivers,” said Ross Hampton, CEO, Australian Forest Products Association.
“This next phase of the ERF is an opportunity to address these barriers and make it more accessible to primary industries and landowners,” he said.
From log to laminated veneer lumberThe use of laminated veneer lumber (LVL) is becoming more popular with designers and architects. Because LVL is created by layering different veneers atop each other, there is a wide variety of process combinations to choose from, but with each combination the structural qualities of the overall LVL varies.
It is crucial for manufacturers to know if their available wood will produce LVL that satisfies their customer’s needs. Now, with a new software tool developed by Scion, LVL manufacturers can gauge whether their LVL will likely meet a customer’s performance requirements, without the need to conduct expensive mill tests.
One of the most important design properties of LVL is bending stiffness. To test the full range of LVL properties, manufacturers have had to process logs and create an LVL sample to check its performance. However, this approach can be expensive and is not always practical in a production setting when trying to assess a wide range of veneers and LVL process options.
Scion was engaged via the Specialty Wood Products Partnership to create a computer model that can determine the bending stiffness range from individual veneers and use that information to calculate the overall LVL section stiffness. It is used as a guide to assist decision making on the likelihood that a forest/log/veneer could meet customer performance requirements and determine what the LVL manufacturing process implications might be.
The computer decision model uses information uploaded about the individual veneer stiffness properties or log pith to bark stiffness profiles and the customer performance/purchase requirements. The user can then explore different LVL process options, and the manufacturer can efficiently use the wood available to them while meeting their customer’s needs.
Brendan Smith Technical Services – Product Manager for the JNL group says, “JNL can see the benefit of this tool to model potential structural finished product output yields, and in being able to determine the required input product mix from two or more distinct log fibre resources. This would enable an increased surety of supply of the required structural grade for the manufacturer’s market, with less potential for arising non-targeted lower grades.”
This software model will save time and money by eliminating unsuitable veneers early in the process. If the model shows that the tested LVL would perform within requirements, then detailed mill studies would be carried out. As with any model, it is only as good as the input data. The next step to develop the model is to generate and upload more stiffness data for a range of forest/log/veneers.
NZ forest nursery under new managementOne of New Zealand’s largest forest nursery operations is now under new management. The founder of Rotorua Nursery, Grant Hastings, has sold the business to a new company led by Peter Harington. Grant has built the business over 12 years, outgrowing two sites. The new business will trade under the name of Rotorua Forest Nursery. The nursery is based in Rotorua and grows approximately 10% of New Zealand’s forest planting stock.
Peter Harington told Friday Offcuts, “The nursery had built a reputation for excellent plant quality. With the same key staff and site, our goal is to maintain that standard. With the help of a great growing season, our first cuttings and seedlings are looking on track for a bumper crop.”
Peter has been involved with managing forest nurseries for 30 years. He has in recent years managed the Scion research nursery and also led the project to set up Minginui Nursery for Ngati Whare. With a forest management background, he originally started nursery work at Tokoroa Nursery with Carter Holt before moving to Rotorua to set up Te Ngae Nursery for Forestry Corp, now Timberlands.
SE Queensland Forest Agreement nears expiryIf a major forestry agreement isn’t renewed by the State Government, Curly Tatnell, the part-owner of the Dale and Meyers Timber Mill, says it could be the end of the hardwood timber industry north of the Gympie region. He provided the grim warning as the South-East Queensland Forest Agreement, one of the cornerstones of the state’s timber industry, nears its expiration date.
Signed in 1999, the SEQFA agreement aimed to cultivate hardwood plantations in the state over a 25-year agreement to be ready for an industry transition by 2025. More than 400,000ha of national park was created across the state under the agreement. But setbacks, including the privatisation and sale of several hardwood plantations in 2010, resulted in the resource not materialising.
Mr Tatnell said not renewing the agreement would have a particularly heavy impact on the local supply of hardwood timber to mills in the Wide Bay region. Mr Tatnell said if there was adequate industry legislation covered by the State Government, the hardwood industry would be “sustainable forever”.
“We’ve got an industry here where we’re not really competitive and have to spend a lot of money to get the latest machinery to produce goods,” he said. “Who will invest millions of dollars into an industry where in five years’ time there might be no resource?”
A review of the state’s hardwood plantation program by GHD in 2015 concluded the State Government’s original plantation resource would not be a suitable replacement for “the native forest resource as currently sourced from State land”. Timber Queensland CEO Mick Stephens claims thousands of jobs could be lost and the AU$200million industry would be at risk of collapse if the agreement was not renewed.
Source: The Gympie Times
Buy and Sell
... and one to end the week on ... the smart house
And one more. Sent in by a reader this week. Liked your sign of the times jokes that were in last week's issue.
You might add this one I saw on a septic tank truck with large signage saying “Pete’s takeaways”!
But there’s more: Below the company name it said: “Some talk it, we suck it” !
And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.
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