The Whitewood (Endospermum medullosum) value-chain in Vanuatu and impediments to development of a plantation-based industry

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Virannamangga, R, Glencross, K, Palmer, G, Nichols, JD & Smith RGB 2015, 'The Whitewood (Endospermum medullosum) value-chain in Vanuatu and impediments to development of a plantation-based industry', Small-scale Forestry, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 139-153.

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Whitewood (Endospermum medullosum) is native to Vanuatu and has been designated as a priority species for plantation development by the Vanuatu Government for timber production after exhaustion of available natural forest supplies. Domestication is well advanced, with first and second-generation seed orchards and considerable silvicultural research having been accomplished, yet development of a plantation estate has been slow. This study analyses the value chain of whitewood on the two main islands of Efate and Santo that have land suitable for growing whitewood, most of the existing processing facilities and the main markets for whitewood products. The value chain is described and pricing along the chain is presented. Interviews with stakeholders identified impediments to the expansion and development of whitewood plantations. Despite a value-added chain existing, the price available to growers often reflects native forest timber prices that are inadequate given the input costs associated with plantation development, therefore providing little motivation to grow whitewood. There is a trend in the market for the highest profits to be taken by owners of key timber processing plant such as portable sawmills, kiln dryers and preservation vessels. However, prices achieved for processed whitewood products generally do not match those of radiata pine products, indicating potential for greater returns for growers and other stakeholders. As a result, landholder participation in plantation establishment is low and is dispersed as many small woodlots. Small-scale growers and processors face technical challenges, including growing of high quality and value stems and timely treatment of sawn timber. Greater capacity for consistency of product quality and the development of new products to maximise utilisation will improve revenue flows to growers.

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