THE Port of Portland has seen no log shipments destined for China for the past three weeks as industry leaders say an export suspension is costing jobs.
Chinese authorities notified the Australia government they would not accept Victorian logs last month, claiming they had detected live bark beetle in a number of shipments this year.
Australia's Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment wrote to Chinese authorities on Monday, November 16 seeking an end to the suspension.
"At this time, Chinese authorities have not responded," a department spokesman told The Standard.
"Australia continues to seek technical engagement on the biosecurity issues cited by China as justification for the suspension of log exports."
The department also proposed a number of changes to the regulation of log exports, designed to further reduce the possibility of live insects on exported logs.
Green Triangle Forest Industry Hub chair Ian McDonnell would not reveal specifics of the impacts to the industry but said "there have been some layoffs" since the suspension started.
"They would be spread across south-eastern South Australia and south-western Victoria," Mr McDonnell said.
He said "on the flip side" the domestic timber market was "strong", increasing jobs in the processing sector.
"Having said that the export market is a very important part of our industry," Mr McDonnell said.
Another Green Triangle industry source, whose company would not authorise them to speak publicly, said if the suspension continued beyond the short-term they would have to curtail some plantation operations or waste fibre.
"There are certain things management can do to mitigate this in the short term, but medium-to-long-term we can't," they said.
Colac-based AKD Softwoods chief executive officer Shane Vicary said the suspension had prompted a rethink in the industry.
"I think it's an opportunity in our industry like all other industries to reset out thinking about supply chain security," Mr Vicary said.
Port of Portland chief Greg Tremewen said the port usually saw about one log ship leave for China a week, but there were none since the suspension.
"There are thousands of jobs that will be affected and the government, from where I sit, seem to be the only body that will be able to fix it and that needs to be done with urgency," Mr Tremewen said.
"The log business is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the region. That involves forestry operators, shipping lines, shipping agents, transport companies, the ports - it's a significant impact."
Mr Tremewen said the bark beetle issue was focused on containerised logs, not the bulk loaded logs the port exports, but suspensions exist for both forms of shipping.
The department's spokesman said it had noted with China that "almost all of the insects intercepted" were on containerised logs.
"On this basis, the department requested an immediate lifting of the suspensions for bulk cargoes," he said.
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