The Australian plywood industry is considering asking the federal government to impose import quotas on thin plywood now that Indonesia has begun an aggressive export drive to dispose of its products.
There is a quota of 10,000 cubic metres on imports of thick plywood exceeding 5.5 mm, but none for thin plywood.
A spokesman for the Australian Plywood Association said a quota system by the government would help the domestic industry.
“Like so many others, we are also in a recession,” he said.
“Every cubic metre imported is every cubic metre less in production for us. But talks already held with the government have not been encouraging.
“Canberra is loath to take any action because it wants to be seen as supporting free trade.”
“Meanwhile, Indonesia plans to increase its plywood exports at a phenomenal rate to its overseas markets, including Australia. They are exporting to Australia at half our price, even with a 37% duty on them.”
“They are frightening the life out of us, and there is nothing we can do except talk to the government and hope for a sympathetic response.”
“It is impossible to determine exactly how many cubic metres are exported to Australia, but it is undoubtedly significant.”
Indonesian plywood is exported to Australia by way of Singapore.
Other industry sources estimate imports from Indonesia at about 10% of the total 70,000 to 80,000 cubic metres imported annually into Australia.
Australia’s production is about 100,000 cub m, of which less than 1% is exported to New Zealand.
Indonesia is a giant producer compared to Australia, with 58 mills now producing 3.5 million cubic metres of plywood.
Forty new mills are under construction with a total capacity of an additional 2.24 million cubic metres, according to the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture.
By 1985, Indonesia’s production capacity will reach 6.7 million cubic metres and 7.8 cubic metres by 1988.
Indonesia’s plywood exports increased in the first eight months of 1982 to 633,120 cubic metres from only 96,880 cubic metres in 1979.
Western Europe, the Middle East, the US, Hong Kong and Singapore (which includes Australia) are the main importers.
Countries that imported Indonesia’s logs promoted plywood made from Indonesian timber in Europe, North America and other regions.
This helped establish a large export market that could be exploited by the Indonesian industry later but offered little incentive for sustainable forest management.