A shock timber shortage has threatened to ruin a family business that’s been in the Hunter for two decades.
Hunter Valley Pallets acting general manager Daniela Matheson said the Cameron Park business’ supply of timber plummeted by about 75 per cent overnight last month and hasn’t picked up again.
It’s left the enterprise, which employs 20 people and makes pallets mainly for locally-based manufacturing and mining companies, on the brink of collapse.
“It came out of nowhere – there was no heads-up, nothing,” Ms Matheson said.
“Immediately, we freaked out. Secondly, we had to look around at what we could get on the market.
“Plywood was the one thing we could get plenty of – the cost of plywood pretty well tripled our customers’ current product and there was so much wastage.”
Ms Matheson said the business had the contacts, customers and staff numbers to grow, but the inability to source the basic material to make their product had created uncertainty for their client base.
The business has already lost one of its major contracts, worth $1.2 million, in recent weeks. So Ms Matheson and her parents, business owners Simon and Tina Henriques, held talks on Thursday in an attempt to find a solution before the problem causes irreparable damage.
They met with Vacy hemp farmer Bob Doyle, to discuss the possibility of using his product to make their pallets, as well as Australian Industry Group regional manager Adrian Price and Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon – who is also the federal shadow minister for agriculture, fisheries and forestry.
“In Australia we are rightfully more aware of the need for sustainable practices, so we’re not harvesting native forests like we used to do and we’re relying more and more heavily on plantation,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“Plantation has a very long cycle – between 15 and 30 years – so you need a long-term strategy from the federal government and we just don’t have one. We need to get some security of supply of traditional products but we also need to diversify and I think using hemp is a fantastic idea.”