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Sawmill numbers fall but scale increases

Confirming what many already knew, latest research shows that in the seven years since 2006-07, the number of sawmills in Australia has fallen significantly. In 2012-13, Australia had approximately:

  • 200 hardwood sawmills (down 60% since 2006-07)
  • 61 softwood sawmills (down 25% since 2006-07)
  • 20 cypress pine sawmills (down 25% since 2006-07)

The survey results also show around half are small mills (processing <15 km3 pa of logs). The majority of these are hardwood mills with the majority of softwood mills processing >100 km3 pa of logs.

Changes such as these have resulted in the average wood processing capacity of sawmills in Australia increasing. Average output of softwood sawmills across Australia was 61.8 km3 in 2012-13, while for hardwood sawmills it was 3.7 km3. For hardwood sawmills there was considerable scale difference across the states, while the softwood sawmills were much more consistently sized on a state by state basis.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) cycle of forestry and wood products research turns its attention to the wood processing sector once every three years. It is assembled using an industry approved survey methodology and all business level data is retained as confidential. The full report can be downloaded here. 

The information in the ABARES National Wood Processing Survey (and the other work it does to analyse and describe industry) is valuable, but is only as good as the data that industry itself provides. The highest sectoral response to the survey was from softwood sawmillers, with responses reaching 69% of the total number of sawmills.

The ABARES National Wood Processing Survey is partly funded by FWPA levies.


Posted Date: September 24, 2014

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