The latest forestry statistics show a further decline in the total area of Australia’s forest plantations, highlighting the need for meaningful policy, from both sides of federal politics, to reverse this trend, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA), Mr Ross Hampton said today.

The Australian Plantation Statistics 2019 update report released on Friday by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) recorded a 12,400 hectare decrease in Australia’s total forest plantation area from 2016-17 to 2017-18. This is a more than half a percent drop bringing Australia’s total area to 1,942,700 hectares in 2017-18.

“These figures again show the downward trend in forest plantation area in Australia, which is particularly worrying, given Australia’s $2 billion trade deficit in wood products. To secure Australia’s timber supply into the future, we need national policies to encourage production tree plantings,” Mr Hampton said.

“AFPA has long campaigned for the removal of the unnecessary Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) water barriers, that prevent forestry operations from receiving carbon payments. Last week, Federal Labor announced, if elected, it would remove the restrictions which effectively disallow carbon payments for new tree plantings in areas of more than 600mm annual rainfall for plantations and areas of 400mm annual rainfall for farm forestry plantings. Unfortunately, the Coalition has not matched Labor’s commitment which will strongly encourage new plantings, but will deliver $500 million in concessional loan offerings for new forest plantations. Both major political parties have acknowledged need for 400,000 extra hectares of plantation and farm forestry plantings. The Coalition acknowledges its concessional loan policy could result in 150,000 hectares of new plantations.

“This trend downward in plantation area is a major issue that political parties need to address urgently. Without a steady supply of local timber, Australia will be forced to keep importing more timber and fibre-based products,” Mr Hampton concluded.