The recent decision to halt native forest harvesting in Victoria is predicted to heavily strain Australia’s pallet pool system, as per the latest data from IndustryEdge.
Australian industries rely on hardwood and softwood pallets for domestic and global goods transportation.
Earlier this month, Wood Central reported a predicted 40% increase in the global wooden pallet market over the next five years.
Pallet systems, such as Chep for hardwood and Loscam for softwood, are crucial components of these global supply chains.
60% of Australia’s hardwood pallet pool is from Victorian Native Forests
New data reveals that approximately 1.6 million new pallets are expected to enter the Australian hardwood pallet pool as older pallets retire and others undergo repairs.
Notably, over 60% of these pallets, amounting to 1 million, originate from Victoria’s native forests.
Hardwood pallets, known for their sturdiness and higher load capacity, are not a like-for-like replacement for softer softwood pallets with shorter lifespans.
The IndustryEdge’s data implies that this strain will reverberate onto the softwood supply.
This pressure will only escalate as hardwood pallets retire and existing inventories deplete over time.
However, the softwood supply chain’s capacity to deliver more pallet timber is limited and cannot fill the supply gap.
The chart shows that softwood packaging grade sales totalled 674,789 cubic metres for the year ended April 2023, accounting for 23.0% of annual sawn softwood sales, down just 0.1% from the previous month’s record proportion.
Annual Sawn Softwood Packaging Grade Sales: Dec ’02 – Apr ’23 (m3 & Proportion)
The annualised 4.1% increase in packaging grade sales is significant because all other major locally produced grades experienced declines over the same period.
The Australian wooden pallet supply was at capacity over Christmas
In December, the ABC reported a shortage of timber pallets with the national supply at capacity.
South Australian Forest Products Association chief executive Nathan Paine said the shortage demonstrated the need for governments to work with industry to increase the timber supply.
“A big part of this of course, is Christmas,” he said.
“We’re all out there, we’re buying food for the Christmas lunch and dinner, we’re buying presents — and demand for products and the movement of products has increased.”
“Even though, as an industry, we’re producing over two million pallets each year to support the movement of that food and goods — that’s just not keeping up with demand, and that shortage really is likely to have an impact on our everyday lives in the future.”
Timber packaging imports jump 48.3% to record heights
According to the data, imports of timber pallets and other packaging made from timber climbed to a record AUD 27.721 Fob million for the year ended April 2023, a 48.3% increase on the prior year.
The new record continues a long run of increased imports that commenced at the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020.
Unfortunately, import data is only available by value, with no volume data reported. The next chart shows the value of imports monthly and in total, on an aggregate basis.
Timber Packaging Imports by Grade: Jan ‘18 – Apr ’23 (AUD Fob Million)
A breakdown of volumes based on Packaging Cases, Boxes, Crates, Drums, Pallets and Load Boards is available on the IndustryEdge website.
Plastic equivalents lifted 6.4% over the last year
Recent work on packaging materials has seen IndustryEdge focus on ‘plastic’ equivalents for timber pallets and related materials.
The data is sketchy but it reports that the value of imports lifted 6.4% to AUDFob197.5 million over the year-ended April 2023.
This packaging material is specifically pallets, cases, crates, boxes and does not include single-use plastic bags.
A breakdown of volumes based on Plastic, Styrene and PVC, Ethylene and Polyethylene and Other Plastics is available on the IndustryEdge website.
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