Hardwood Log Trade Goes ‘Dark’

IndustryEdge regularly comments on instances where there is an absence of transparency in Australia’s import and export trade.

Normally we comment by providing data and analysis that those seeking to obstruct transparency would prefer not to have disclosed. That is why IndustryEdge developed a revised and enhanced woodchip export data series after transparency was obstructed by the application of ‘confidentiality restrictions’ available through the Australian Bureau of Statistics. That we were, with the support of clients, able to construct a series with more data points and increased our subscriber base for the service should demonstrate that trade will find a way to make itself transparent. 

Usually, that is…

We have frankly been stumped by the use of the same confidentiality restrictions to hide the state of origin of exports of hardwood logs from Australia.

What is worse, at the moment, we can provide no precise alternative analysis or insights into the trade.

Partly, that is because there is almost no trade to be bothered about.

Since September 2013, only aggregate national volumes and values have been reported, with all state level detail redacted. August 2013 was a relatively large export month (28.5 km3) and September was marginally higher at 29.1 km3. In the four months since, just 23.9 km3 of hardwood logs have been exported from Australia.

As the chart below shows, 90.7% of the August volumes was exported from Victoria. Though some may have been exported in containers from Melbourne, IndustryEdge is confident in asserting the majority went through Portland. As we are based in Geelong, we are confident none was exported from that port. It seems reasonable to assume that the similar volume of exports in September 2013 were also from Victoria.

Australian Exports of Hardwood Logs by State: Jan’13 – Dec’13 (km3)

Hwd logs by State

Source: ABS

Note: NSD = No State Details

There is certainly an argument, albeit limited, for lawfully holding back export data to protect a new trade arrangement or a one-off trade from competitor scrutiny.

What is very difficult to understand is why, when the volumes appear to have fallen away as rapidly as they rose, the exporter has not requested the restrictions be withdrawn.

The IndustryEdge team are not free trade zealots. Far from it. However, transparency is one element of the concepts underpinning free trade that we do support. Signals of market positions and movement and other general market information are meant to be freely available to encourage the development of legitimate trade.

This is an edited extract published in the monthly Wood Market Edge in March 2014.

For samples of trade data and subscription enquiries for Wood Market Edge, contact admin@industryedge.com.au or call +61 3 5229 2470.

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