The evolving use of Australian woodchips and wood fibre
The rise of the environmentally conscious consumer has seen global demand for renewable products skyrocket
Unprecedented change driven by shifting global markets and consumer tastes is sweeping through almost every industry in the world, and forestry is no exception.
Mitsui & Co. Ltd. (Mitsui) has been part of Australia’s woodchip industry for close to three decades and during this time its role has grown from simply exporting woodchips to Japan, to establishing itself in all stages of the woodchip value chain.
Today, its wholly-owned subsidiary, Mitsui Bussan Woodchip Oceania (MWO), is one of Australia’s leading woodchip exporters, shipping approximately 2.5 million green metric tonnes of hardwood and softwood woodchips from Australia each year.
As 2017 draws to a close, Mitsui reflects on the year that was and is excited about the future and potential of the Australian forestry industry.
In Mitsui’s words .... A growing Asian middle class will continue to drive demand for quality woodchip and timber products as manufacturing and energy needs only increase. For Australian forestry, the combination of these market conditions uniquely positions forestry as one of Australia’s leading sustainable export industries.
Japan is one of the world’s largest importers of woodchips, and while it remains MWO’s key trading partner, other countries are increasingly recognising the value and potential of Australian woodchips.
Just last year China overtook Japan as the world’s largest woodchip importer, and we believe India holds great potential for the future. In 2010, we made our first shipment to China and in a first ever for the Australian industry, in 2013 we made our first shipment to India. Both countries are enjoying some of the highest growth rates among global economies and are supported by positive future outlooks.
A sustainable future
The rise of the environmentally conscious consumer has seen global demand for renewable products skyrocket, and what’s interesting for the future of our industry is the role woodchips can play in creating more sustainable products.
While many people think of pulp mills as producers of paper, there are a new generation of mills that could be considered biorefineries. These mills are taking woodchips and extracting an abundance of materials from them; woodchips are now helping to create bioplastics, textiles and even components used in motor vehicles.
Another essential use for woodchips lies in energy production. The Japanese and Korean governments are encouraging the use of more renewable energy options, and as a result are ramping up imports of wood pellets and woodchips for industrial power production. Used in either co-firing with coal or in dedicated biomass power stations, wood pellets are assisting some of our largest neighbours to meet their growing energy demands.
We recently started exporting wood pellets from Australia, and our relationships with power stations in Japan, give Mitsui unique access to coal consumers and the ability to promote and supply biomass as a supplemental or alternative renewable fuel.
It is through the use of woodchips for new products and to support existing industries that forestry can continue to be one of Australia’s leading sustainable exporters.
Longevity and partnerships
As the industry continues to evolve we see partnerships becoming even more integral to the longevity of forestry in Australia. As well as creating employment opportunities, collaboration ensures knowledge sharing and means we can continually improve our processes and products.
As a global conglomerate, Mitsui does business in 66 countries from over 139 offices around the world. This network enables us to have expertise in investment, finance, marketing and logistics, and apply this
■ Log truck being unloaded at BFE. Logs are lifted from the trucks and placed directly onto the infeed deck of the chipper.
■ One year old Eucalyptus globulus plantation within the Bunbury region.