Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Balsa is the wood of the future

Caption: Gunter Isensee of Gunter Balsa Ltd at work with his men at the University of Vudal balsa mill.


Communitiesin Papua New Guinea, particularly those in East New Britain, now have the opportunity to receive training on balsa planting and management, processing and mill management.
This follows the establishment of a balsa sawmill at the University of Vudal for training and also to expose farmers to an alternate crop that can support cocoa production.
This sawmill was developed jointly between the University and Gunter Balsa Ltd,  a balsa company from Germany.
This project is geared to promote the  balsa industry in PNG.
The company, Gunter Balsa Ltd, arrived in the campus four months ago to begins its sawmill operation.
Gunter Isensee, the principal of Gunter Balsa Ltd, comes from a family that owns a balsa company in Germany, the Insensee Modellbau.
The Insensee Modelbau Company processes and supplies balsa wood to European markets for furniture making and other industrial products.
With extensive knowledge and skills he has from working with his mother company, he is preparing to train and assist students and local farmers to establish good balsa plantations, harvesting, processing and marketing knowledge and skills to supply overseas and local markets
“We are not only here to mill and produce balsa wood for our mother company,  but the most important aspect in this project is to educate and train students and farmers to plant balsa, process and manage balsa mills in their own communities,” Mr Insensee said.
He believes in future that there will be a big market for balsa wood products and PNG balsa wood will be in high demand.
 “We must be prepared to have a large number of balsa sawmills in PNG to supply the market.
To achieve this, the university and the company aim to produce very skilled and experienced PNG mill managers and technical support who will need to be well trained, not only in mill management, but in technical skills and safety management within the industry.
The company will not be planting its own balsa plantation but will buy from the University and local growers.
“We want to build a long term business relationship with the community,” Mr Insensee said.
Unlike other companies operating the balsa trade, the company will be purchasing and milling the entire tree into blocks, packed and exported to Germany for further processing for the market.
 Recovery from this mill operation is targeted at 80-90%, as branches will also be processed. 
The first balsa house in the Pacific region and the world built from balsa wood will be erected near the mill in few months time.
Vudal University’s head of Forestry Department in the School of Natural Resources, Neville Howcroft, said that although the balsa industry was small, since 1995 the industry had grown significantly and it had diversified from hobby balsa production to industrial balsa, with most of the PNG balsa wood exported to overseas markets
Mr Howcroft said the establishment of the University of Vudal’s balsa mill would provide a good income both for the local balsa growers and the university, and excellent opportunities to train farmers in the establishment and management of balsa and how to mill and market this product.
“Training to support the rural community and industry will also assist keeping us to be competitive on the world markets, because balsa wood products is now fast replacing products developed with asbestos as an complimentary substance for cooling or heat protection” he said .
This provides an alternative as balsa wood products will one day replace plywood and other plastic products.
Asbestos associated products have been banned in many developed countries around the world as it is toxic to humans.

No comments:

Post a Comment