Now that we are well into 2016, we can look forward and try to predict the future for sawmillers for the rest of the year. In my last newsletter I explained that it appeared as though 2016 had got off to a good start, with millers reporting robust sales demand, and that it would be interesting to see if the momentum could be sustained.
Well now we can say with reasonable certainty that the momentum has definitely remained and that sawmills from across the country are reporting better-than-expected sales. If one looks at the Crickmay Lumber Index you will note that the upward trend last year as at November 2015 was 8.5% year on year and it will now be interesting to see what the latest (January 2016) number is once the Lumber Index is released early next month. Mills are also reporting lower stock levels across all grades and this should also assist prices as we move into a more favourable supply-and-demand situation.
Other good news for the sector is that serious work has now begun on the Skills Development Initiative that was launched between SSA and the FP&M Seta. The first “skill” (that of Saw Doctor) has now been elevated to a Trade and, as mentioned above, work on the Qualification development has begun in earnest. Next will be Kiln and Boiler Operator and then on to Wetmill and Drymill, as well as Logyard. This is a great step in the right direction and an example of how the association is working positively for the industry. We are proud of the efforts of the association in getting the necessary funding for the initiative.
Your Executive Management Committee met for the first time in 2016 in JHB last week and we are pleased to report that the Exco has finally come to agreement on the revised fee-gathering model for the association’s funding. You will recall that a revised model was proposed at the AGM but it was agreed that the Exco should investigate ways of making the model more equitable for all sawmillers, especially for the smaller mills who under the original proposal would have found themselves with a substantial increase in levies. As the reworked proposal is quite different from the original, we will be corresponding in the near future with all members of SSA to explain the model and illustrate how it would affect each individual mill; thereafter it will be placed on the agenda of the next AGM to be ratified.
Another decision taken by the Exco was that it would support the ongoing Tree Espacement research currently being undertaken by the University of Stellenbosch for the 2016 year, but that it expected to see the final results of this research by the end of the 2016 year. The association (SSA) has been suporting this vital project together with FSA and various individual forestry companies for the past three years and feels that the time is drawing near for results to be concluded.
In this respect the original Masters Thesis done by Justin Erasmus and entitled “The effect of planting density on Pinus patula stem form, wood properties and lumber strength and stiffness” has been published and is available on the university’s website. Do yourself a favour and take the time to read through the thesis – it will enlighten and inform you of the potential benefits of adjusting your planting espacement for improved inherent characteristics in pine saw logs.
If we are to sum up 2016 for the sawmilling sector in one word, it would be "Improved". Lets hope we can sustain the “Improvement” as we move forward and enjoy the fruits of our success. Good luck.
Executive Director: Sawmilling South Africa