Longer term prospects for the re-opening of the log trade to India are looking more promising after the Ministry for Primary Industries confirmed shipments can continue from New Zealand without having methyl bromide fumigation prior to departure.
The agency earlier granted exporters a window of opportunity from September to late October to send shipments of logs to the sub-continent, subject to them being treated with methyl bromide by Indian authorities on arrival there. That allowance has now been continued without a fixed end date.
The use of the fumigant in NZ was banned by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for use in ships’ holds from the start of this year, which dried up the previously solid log trade with India.
Prior to the ban, log trade value had grown to 1.7 million cubic metres a year, valued at about $250 million. That was dwarfed by Chinese exports of 19 million cubic metres but was close to the South Korean volumes of 2 million cubic metres a year.
Only one shipment of logs has been dispatched under the interim period.
The ability to resume trade in logs was one of several key export focus topics during the recent India-New Zealand Business Council trade delegation to New Delhi.
Mark Proctor, a director of log exporters and forestry company TPT Forests, said the change has come about thanks to Indian regulators now including NZ on a list of countries that do not allow methyl bromide use.
“It simply means they will accept NZ logs and fumigate on arrival,” he said.
He said it was still early days, with the only shipment sailing from NZ in late October and still on the water, and still to clear the process on arrival.
He said the move will likely be interpreted with caution by NZ log exporters, though there is talk of another vessel due to sail.
Work is being done on alternative fumigants for use in NZ that are as effective as methyl bromide, without the ozone-depleting environmental impact it brings.
These include phosphine, which has been approved for use as a fumigant in Chinese shipments since 2001. Another treatment, EDN, has received EPA approval for use as a fumigant in 2022.