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Widening trade deficit highlights challenge to Australian forest industries.

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Media Release

The Hon Wilson Tuckey, MP

Minister for Forestry and Conservation




23 September 1999




Another increase in the trade deficit for wood and paper produ cts highlights the need for Australia to step up its efforts to market our unique timbers, the Minister for Forestry and Conservation, Wilson Tuckey today.


Mr Tuckey said preliminary trade statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicated that the trade deficit for wood and paper products widened from

$1 745 billion in 1997-98 to 1.963 billion in 1998-99.


"Australia’s imports of forest products rose by a further six per cent to $3.26 billion in 1998-99, the second year in a row of import rises,” Mr Tuckey said.


“This worrying trend can only be overcome when value added timber products, including high quality paper can be produced in Australia to overcome this deficit. This will only happen when Investors, who in many cases need to have hundreds of millions of dollars through to the billions of dollars to get started, have the confidence that the RFA process has delivered a guaranteed wood supply and security to back the investment.


My Forestry Action Agenda process will build on the RFA agreements and legislation to provide the security for companies to invest in value adding timber processes,” said Mr Tuckey.


A major factor in the rise was a jump in pulp imports, following reduced pulp production in Tasmania and increased use of imported pulp for paper production in Victoria. Pulp imports rose by $67 million to $193 million, and the volume of imports rose by 72 per cent to 310,000 tonnes.


The value of imports of paper and paper board rose by 3.5 per cent ($59 million) to a record $1.76 billion, mostly as a result of an increase In the unit value of paper and paper board imports. In contrast, the total volume of imports of paper and paper board fell three per cent to 1.3 million tonnes.


After three years of strong growth, the value of exports of forest products from Australia fell by two per cent to $1.30 billion in 1 998-99.


“The good news is that these falls were partly offset by increased exports to several Asian countries of other forest products such as sawn wood, round wood, wood based panels and wastepaper.


“These increased strongly to levels above export volumes prior to the downturn in these markets in the first half of 1998. However, while export volumes were up, prices were well down across these products,” Mr Tuckey said.


Contact: Graeme Hallett: 0419688 440



jk  1999-09-27  10:56