Carbon price concerns sawmillers

TOUGH times with little hope in sight.

That was the sentiment among leaders of the local timber industry on Monday when they met with several Federal National Party representatives, including its leader Warren Truss.

The cohort met with about 20 representatives from the local timber industry at a meeting in Grafton on Monday night as part of a tour of the Page and Cowper electorates.

Mr Truss said among the main challenges discussed during the meeting was a general downturn in the construction sector, increasing importation of cheap timber from overseas and restrictions on timber supply.

However the real elephant in the room during the meeting, he said, was the carbon price set to be brought in by the Federal Government from July this year.

"Businesses like these (regional timber mills) are facing very substantial increases to their electricity costs which tends to make their product less competitive. They're already facing competition from imports from China at a fraction of the local price," Mr Truss said.

"There's a limit to how much extra cost they can bear and still be competitive. If these industries start to become less competitive and viable, it affects the whole town."

J Notaras and Sons Timber is one of the many local timber mills struggling in the current climate; its manager Spiro Notaras was among those at the meeting.

Mr Notaras agreed one of the biggest challenges facing the industry was the carbon price.

"With the downturn in the economy, we can't compete now as it is. We're very concerned about the carbon tax and how energy costs are going to go through the roof," Mr Notaras said.

"We've had to put staff off and reduce production already."

According to the Government's Clean Energy Future website, the carbon-pricing legislation will actually benefit the timber industry.

The website states: "Over time, carbon pricing will increase the value of wood products. Products that compete with timber, such as cement, steel and fossil fuels, will be covered by the carbon price.

"This means timber products will become relatively more attractive to buyers as the world transitions to a low carbon future."

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