Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Agroforestry Research Findings Vindicate Earlier Work on New Crops for the NT

African mahogany - high-value timber option for northern dry tropics

African mahogany could be a prime candidate for farm forestry in Australia's northern dry tropics, with dried and dressed timber potentially fetching prices around $3000 to $5500 per cubic metre, new research shows.

The findings result from a new study, African Mahogany Grown in Australia – wood quality and potential uses was launched on July 23, 2007 in Kununurra, WA, by RIRDC chairperson, Mary Boydell. Ms Boydell is visiting the Kununurra area as part of a series of field visits by the RIRDC Board to research projects in northern Australia.

"This project is an example of the contribution that we can make to Northern Australia through industry-focused R&D," Ms Boydell said. "The research will assist all those involved in growing African mahogany to maximise the value of the timber."

The research was funded by the Joint Venture Agroforestry Program, a collaborative initiative managed by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, with partners Land and Water Australia and the Forest and Wood Products Research and Development Corporation. The research was conducted in the Northern Territory by researchers from the Department of Primary Industry Fisheries and Mining, in collaboration with researchers from Queensland's Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, at two research sites near Darwin; and its findings are relevant across the dry tropics.

African mahogany is a high quality, medium-weight hardwood that has been used for furniture, boat building, joinery, veneers, and a range of other purposes. "In Australia, the estimated gross value of production for the forestry sector is over $1600 million per annum, including around $800 million from hardwood species before processing," Ms Boydell said. "Farm forests and joint ventures currently make up 11pc of plantations, with a significant increase in farm planting since 1995. "However, new industries, like farm forestry, are risky. "They have basic information needs, like the potential impacts of disease, processing requirements, market information, and profitability. "High establishment costs and long times for a return on investment make tree crops especially risky. "This why R&D to meet these information needs is important to underpin investment and industry development."

This finding supports some of the very early work conducted by myself as part of a range of work on new economic crops for northern Australia, conducted in the early 1990s. Even then, demand for high quality timber for high value uses in furniture and cabinet making indicated a strong potential for a timber crop that filled the gap, as high quality timbers from overseas sources were both increasing in prices and declining in availability. Since then, R and D has added to the knowledge of this species. BUT......ask any local resident in Darwin or even Katherine or Kununurra, they already know how good the timber is, using product from trees planted 2o- 30 years ago.

For further reading see - Economic Plants for the Northern Territory by PG Harrison published by the NT Department of Primary Industry Fisheries and Mines in 1993

partially sourced from the RIRDC media release.

1 comment:

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