China to Operate Wood Export Depots From Australia & NZ Ports

Wood Central understands that Chinese operators are offering top dollar to small-scale forest growers and are interested in 'a mixed' bag of logs.

Thu 31 Aug 23


Authoritative reports confirm that China is establishing and financing wood export depots in Australia and New Zealand, paying top dollar for logs from small-scale forest growers.

“These ‘timber head-hunters’, backed by the Chinese government, are bypassing larger producers to concentrate on a ‘mixed bag’ of logs, offering vendors prices well above their value to gain market share,” a reliable source told Wood Central.

“They have already accumulated stock for other markets and have now switched to Chinese export-grade logs.

“Also, there has been some haggling over prices originally offered ‘at the gate’, another fly in the ointment.”

Wood Central believes Chinese-backed operates from two holding yards, one at New Zealand’s Wellington Harbour port and another at Portland in Victoria.

Wellington Harbour is NZ’s third largest port and the best placed strategically for log exports. (Photo Credit Twitter)

The operations are legal, but again, it reflect the lengths China will go to satisfy an insatiable demand for logs and sawn timber, competing against India, which now buys 98% of Australia’s total softwood exports.

The latest IndustryEdge report has reported that Australia achieved a 23-month high with export data in April 2023. (Photo Credit: Port of Portland)
The Port of Portland is Australia’s largest port for log exports. (Photo Credit: Port of Portland)

China has established similar log holding yards across southeast Asia and Africa, notably Mozambique, where 80% of its timber exports are destined for the People’s Republic.

This demand for forest products presents both opportunities and challenges for Mozambique. As the country’s sixth-largest export, timber represents one of the most critical industries and sources of income. 

Natural forests cover 43% of Mozambique and provide employment, income and livelihood in rural areas. (Photo Credit: World Bank)

However, the intense search for resources has put pressure on the sustainable management of forests.

To generate greater domestic value-added products and employment through the local processing of Roundwood, an export ban on first-class timber in the form of logs has been in place since 2007.

In 2019, the UN invested in Mozambique to build it’s forest capacity.

The effectiveness of this ban on processing activity is debatable.

Virtually no Mozambican-owned companies are engaged in timber export; the international trade of the country’s timber is mainly operated by Chinese companies, which export the wood to the Chinese market.

Harvest and haulage operations in Mozambique. (Photo Credit: Supplied from Twitter)

China is almost the only market for Mozambican timber, and as such, this market exhibits some peculiar features.

Contrary to price trends of global forest products, sawn timber fetches a lower unit price than logs due to the preference of manufacturers in China who are willing to pay a premium for logs, which are essential for producing antique-style furniture.

Logs leaving the port in Mozambique – China imports almost 100% of all timber explored from the African nation. (Photo Credit: Supplied from Twitter)

Exporting sawn timber means that the product loses value on the Chinese market and that a Mozambican-based company must face the costs of running a sawmill and competing with timber from countries that have not illegalised the export of logs.

The result is squeezed profit margins and a strong incentive to break the log-export ban. 

Because the share of illegal activity in the timber industry is estimated to be large, integrating these illegal activities into the formal economy could generate significant revenue for the government through taxation. 

It would also provide greater control and oversight of logging activities than is currently the case.


  • Wood Central

    Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media across all digital platforms. Our vision is to develop an integrated platform for media, events, education, and products that connect, inform, and inspire the people and organisations who work in and promote forestry, timber, and fibre.


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