US tree beetle woes boosts Portland pine exports

PORTLAND’s port is on track to break export records again this year — mainly because a North American tree beetle has created an international shortage of pine.

Export numbers through the port are expected to approach six million tonnes — 10 per cent higher than last year’s record of 5.4 million with log trade being the main trigger. 

Port chief executive Jim Cooper said the pest had devastated forests in the United States, forcing the nation to halt shipments to China. 

“Our prediction is that there will be a shortage of pine trees until 2019 so China will turn to the Green Triangle,” Mr Cooper told The Standard, adding that warmer weather had allowed the species to thrive longer in winter. 

“The beetle is wreaking havoc. 

“With climate change the beetle is going to continue eating the pine trees.

“This year the port overall will break export records.”

Pine is in demand in China to manufacture into plywood and construction products.

Mr Cooper said 2013 was the busiest the port had been in more than a decade and a throwback to the 1960s when the docks employed hundreds more workers. 

More than 130 new jobs were created last year.

Most of the jobs come from three shipping companies that source employees for the Port of Portland — Qube, ISO and C3.

Glenelg Shire Council mayor John Northcott said the log trade surge would secure the port’s future for the coming decade. 

“There has been a general upturn in exports from this port, including blue gum woodchips, pine logs, blue gum logs and mineral sands,” he said.

“It’s expected trade from this port will continue to remain strong for at least the next eight to 10 years.”

GrainCorp has told the council it wants to expand bulk exports.

GrainCorp loaded 21,000 tonnes of faba beans from Portland in early March — the first shipment in Portland in more than a decade and almost double the previous one in 2002.

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