• arrow-up Output is expected to dip to $524 million. Down 3% yoy.
  • Salvage harvesting led to higher log production volumes in 2019-20.
  • Extensive replanting programs by Forestry Corporation of NSW are underway.
Timber production increased in 2019-20 with salvage harvesting taking priority in the wake of the Australian bushfires. Softwood plantations were a key focus for salvage operations, as Forestry Corporation of NSW recovered close to five million tonnes of softwood timber. Efforts to restore plantations and allow hardwood native forests to recover have begun.

As COVID restrictions relaxed, with support from the Commonwealth Homebuilder program, residential construction surged and trade disruptions caused timber shortages locally.

NSW Forest Science

NSW Forest Science is the forest research team within NSW Department of Primary Industries.

NSW Forest Science provides evidence-based services to forest managers and policy makers that underpin sustainable use of native forests and timber plantations.

The team is research and technology focused, innovative and collaborative. Its core values are integrity, trust, service and accountability.

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Koala research in NSW forests

Monitoring Koalas in Hinterland Forests of Northeast NSW and the effect of 2019 fires on the meta-population. Monitoring is fundamental to improving the management of threatened species. There is much speculation, but few available data on trends in koala populations. DPI Forest Science has monitored annually the koala metapopulation of the hinterland forests of northeast New South Wales since 2015.
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Source: [[9FCNSW, 2021c0]]
Log production in NSW increased 3% to 6.6 million cubic metres in 2019-20 as salvage harvesting took priority following extensive bushfires. 12 Forestry Corporation dedicated its resources to harvesting and selling fire-affected timber from pine plantations. Softwood production was up 12% to 5.7 million cubic metres, reflecting these efforts.

Hardwood production was down significantly to 894,000 cubic metres, a 31% decline over the previous year. This decline was particularly in native forests as there was a greater focus on recovery of forest health, biodiversity, and flora and fauna. 112 Sawlog production from hardwood plantations increased 162% over 2018-19 to offset the decline in sawlogs from native forests.

In the softwood sector, sawlog production increased 16% over 2018-19 to 3.2 million cubic metres, and pulplog production increased 8% to 2.4 million cubic metres. Salvage operations harvested 2.4 million tonnes by the end of 2019-20. Radiata pine, the main softwood in NSW, needs to be salvaged within 12 months of a fire otherwise it will deteriorate.


The 2019-20 fires impacted around 62,000 hectares of state forest timber plantations, around a quarter of the plantation area managed by FCNSW. 113 Softwood Plantations near Tumut, Bombala, Walcha and Grafton were heavily affected by fire. 114 Of the 34,00 hectares of hardwood plantations, around 15% of the area was impacted by fires. FCNSW is conducting extensive replanting of all fire-affected plantations. 116

Updated plantation data has not yet been published. As at 1 January 2019, NSW had 393,200 hectares of commercial plantations, comprising of 306,000 hectares of softwood species and 87,100 hectares of hardwood species.

Of the Forestry Corporation plantation area, 178,406 hectares was radiata pine, 11,918 hectares was Blackbutt, 3,318 hectares was Flooded gum, 3,162 hectares was Spotted gum.

Within NSW, Snowy Valleys local government area had the largest area of plantations, at 62,329 hectares, followed by Oberon (39,738 ha), Snowy Monaro Regional (26,815 ha), Greater Hume (14,153 ha) and Lithgow (9,776 ha). For hardwood plantations, Kyogle and Bellingen local government areas had the largest areas under management by Forestry Corporation of NSW, at 6,273 hectares and 5,927 hectares respectively.

Stacked lumber


US Lumber Futures Prices

  • Closing Price (Lumber Futures, $US per 1,000 Board Feet)
Source: NASDAQ (2021)
Mill door prices in NSW averaged $136 across all hardwood products, and $74 across softwood products in 2019-20. Average prices were higher across both categories compared to 2018-19. This was partly due to a change in mix of hardwood products delivered, with a higher share of sawnwood compared to pulplogs produced. This was especially true for plantations, where saw and veneer logs increased from 14% of output to 49% in 2019-20. Forestry Corporation moved the majority of its operations into hardwood plantations following the 2019-20 fires.

Average softwood prices rose due to increases in high quality sawlogs and cypress sawlogs. Ply and veneer logs had highest average prices in the softwood sector.

COVID Lumber futures in the US fell to a 5 year low early in the pandemic, then rallied in late 2020 as new home building and renovations caused a surge in demand for timber 59 , similar to the trend in Australia. Futures reached an all time high of US$1,670.5 per thousand board feet in May 2021, then fell to US$737.4 per thousand board feet by 30 June 2021 162 , still above pre-pandemic levels.


In 2020-21, NSW forestry exports were $114.6 million (excluding woodchips), down 37% year-on-year. 128 China was the largest destination, with exports valued at $74.5 million (down 52.7%), followed by South Korea ($14.9 million, up 172%) and India ($9.3 million, up 903%). Despite the decline, NSW remained the second largest exporter after Victoria, which exported $255.6 million in forestry products.

Due to confidentiality issues, there were $811.0 million in forestry exports that were not attributed to any state. This category was hardwood woodchips, though in 2018-19 NSW produced around 5% of Australia’s hardwood woodchips.

The largest imports by value to NSW were Builders’ Joinery and Carpentry of Wood ($163.3 million), Wood, Continuously Shaped ($141.6 million), and Plywood, Veneered Panels and Similar ($140.8 million). China, New Zealand and Indonesia were the largest trade partners with NSW.

While Australia and NSW are net exporters of unprocessed forestry products, they are net importers of wood products. NSW exported $128.6 million in wood products in 2019-20, accounting for just over 8% of Australia exports ($1.5 billion). These are primarily unprocessed or minimally-processed products like wood in the rough or sawnwood.

NSW imported $731.2 million in wood products in 2020-21, being the second-largest importer in Australia after Victoria ($907.0 million). Australian imports of wood products in 2020-21 were $2.4 billion.

Employment and Value Added

In 2020-21, employment in forestry and related industries in NSW increased by 3% year-on-year to 19,800. 23 This was due to higher employment in forestry support services and pulp, paper and converted paper product manufacturing. NSW accounted for 28% of Australian employment in the sector, which fell by 4% to 69,900 in 2020-21.

Industry value added (measured as production output less intermediate inputs) was estimated at $2.8 billion, a 5% decrease over the year. Industry value added for Australia was estimated at $8.7 billion, down 6% over the previous year.

Macroeconomic Conditions

Eucalypt forest
Building activity rebounded strongly in 2020-21. The Commonwealth Government’s HomeBuilder scheme provided subsidies for residential construction or renovations. In NSW there were 16,266 applications for new builds and 6,909 applications for renovations under the program. 200 By comparison there were approximately 21,400 building approvals for new houses and 18,600 approvals for other residential dwellings over the same period.

With approvals for new houses up 20% and approvals for alterations and additions up 24%, there was a rush to sign contacts which saw the highest monthly total of approvals in March 2021 since 2018. The jump in building activity, bushfire-induced supply shift, and lower timber imports has led to a shortage of timber for construction.

There were trade disruptions relating back to COVID that affected the domestic timber industry by increasing lead times for key products. 119 World timber supply fell during 2020, then in the second half of the year there was a surge in residential construction and renovations in many countries. This supply-demand imbalance sent lumber futures to record levels in May 2021.

2019-20 Bushfires

The 2019-20 bushfires were some of the most devastating bushfires in the history of NSW. Over 5.4 million hectares was burnt, over 2,448 homes were destroyed and 25 lives were lost. According to the Forestry Corporation of NSW, this bushfire season impacted 890,000 hectares of native State forests and 65,000 hectares of State forest timber plantations in NSW.

Forestry Corporation has commenced its largest replanting program, including over 14 million pine seedlings to replant softwood plantations across the state and 1 million eucalypt seedlings across north coast NSW hardwood plantations.

Forest after fire