Northern Territory Government Newsroom

Research opens up opportunities for African mahogany industry

A project to optimise value from African mahogany plantations has become the first Territory project to attract forest wood products industry R&D funding.

Department of Primary Industry and Resources Principal Research Scientist Dr Mila Bristow said plantation forestry was an increasingly important industry and the second largest production land use in the Northern Territory after cattle grazing, with more than 49,500ha of the NT currently used to produce forestry products in managed plantations.

“The emerging high value timber industry in northern Australia will benefit significantly from the findings of this research project: even a 10% improvement in productivity from management systems developed by the project would deliver an additional $15 million each year,” she said.

“Research will focus on maximising value in the sector by examining best practice in silviculture: such as different fertilising, pruning and thinning techniques as well as researching the optimum practices to grow the Northern Territory’s African mahogany for the market specifications, whilst ensuring the profitability of Territory forestry growers.”

The project brings a new level of cooperation between industry and government as it is being funded through the Federal Government Voluntary Matching program, which is managed by Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA).

Plantation companies African Mahogany Australia (AMA) and Northern Tropical Timbers (NTT) are providing the industry funds into the research project, and accessing the voluntary matching via FWPA. The overall project is being led by Dr John McGrath of McGrath Forestry Services.

The Northern Territory and Queensland governments will provide research support through their agricultural research divisions.

Dr Bristow said African mahogany has been grown commercially in the Northern Territory since 2006 to produce wood products for high value markets.

“Industry estimates that African mahogany plantations (alone) will have a projected value of $150 million by 2019,” she said.

The forest plantation sector in the NT includes:

  • African mahogany grown for high value sawn timber (14,000 ha Douglas-Daly region) currently the largest plantation estate of this species in the world

  • Black wattle grown for pulp (30,000 ha on the Tiwi Islands)

  • Sandalwood grown for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and fragrant oil products (5,500 ha Katherine region) the largest area of Indian sandalwood plantations in the world.

The research project will run for four years and be completed by June 2020.

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Media contact: Conor Doherty 0438 455 536


Research opens up opportunities for African mahogany industry