Letter from the PCA President & COO
Last week I traveled to Kunming China to participate in the 2014 China Gum Rosin Trade Conference sponsored by the China Forest Chemicals Trade Association. Kunming is located in Yunnan Province, which today is the highest rosin producing province in China. Yunnan Province is the most southwestern province in China and is also known for its production of a very large variety of mushrooms, as well as the home of over 25 different ethnic groups, all making for some great restaurants and food.
After the conference we took a trip about 200 miles south to Puer, a Chinese city about 40 miles from the Laotian border. There we visited with Guangdong Komo Co. Ltd. and saw an exceptionally clean gum rosin plant, visited areas of planted pines almost ready for tapping and enjoyed some unforgettable Chinese hospitality.
At the conference, I spoke on some of the challenges facing the pine chemicals industry, in particular regulatory issues and increasing labor costs in Gum Rosin production. I also spoke about the opportunities to address these challenges.
One of the issues I addressed was the State of California’s recently developed list of toxic chemicals with a plan to ban products that use these chemicals. Unfortunately, the list is in error and includes several pine chemicals that have been shown to be safe. I also noted regulatory actions being considered in the EU that could create very expensive and burdensome additional testing for bio based chemicals such as ours.
For the Gum Rosin industry, the long term problem for production has been the cost of labor and China is no different as wages there are increasing. This industry, like the modern agriculture industry, will have to incorporate improved productivity and efficiency to be sustainable.
Today the PCA is monitoring and addressing regulatory issues globally, including working to correct the California list of chemicals, and we are coordinating with experts in the EU, China and other areas to identify and solve problems. We address the issues as they arise and use the leverage of the industry to develop data and to effectively interact with regulatory agencies.
The Association recently conducted a very successful educational course in the US on Soap, CTO and CST recovery. We are now evaluating the option to develop a similar educational course on global “best practices” in oleoresin production and forestry management. Innovation in the last 5 to 10 years has shown that hybrid pine trees grow faster and can be tapped much earlier than non-hybrids, and then can produce 30 to 40% more oleoresin when tapped. Other innovations in tapping methods and forestry management techniques are all providing opportunities to substantially improve productivity and substantially reduce cost.
In the last year, as part of our new advocacy efforts, we have written a number of articles on the new bio-economy these have been published in over 74 magazines, blogs and periodicals. Our message is to promote the uniqueness of our industry as utilizing a renewable biomass to make value add products which are productively used in society every day and do so with a small carbon footprint.
Our industry, like all industries, is facing continuous evolution driven partly by our own innovations as well as by many external forces. Several speakers at the conference noted the ongoing changes including the fact that last year internal rosin use in China surpassed exports.
My message to the conference was that we, as an industry, must use our global leverage to be successful long term. We have an exceptional and unique industry based on renewable bio based products. Collectively, with education, advocacy and sharing costs where appropriate, we can assure our sustainability.
Charlie Morris, President and COO