New Zealand's misguided love affair with bulk commodities continues to produce boom/bust cycles which we somehow have to manage - the current case in point being forestry.
There's a strong chance that industry is about to experience an extended depression, right when everyone from government to speculators is rushing to plant trees to get in on what has been a boom time for logs.
And, just as it was for dairy, the downfall is prompted by too much reliance on one large customer who calls the shots – China.
Over 5 million tonnes of logs are piled up on Chinese wharves, with more en route, because suddenly Chinese timber mills have stopped buying our trees.
The reason? China's "Belt and Road" project has created a high-volume low-cost rail highway to Europe, which European and Russian merchants are using to "back-haul" enormous quantities of ready-cut lumber East.
Radiata pine logs cannot compete with higher-quality sawn timbers delivered at lower equivalent prices. Consequently our logs have already fallen from US$140 to US$110 per tonne, and still dropping, putting a big dent in a trade worth $5.2 billion last year.
Forest Owners Association president Peter Weir called the situation "a major re-set" and said the log harvest needs to go on hold for at least six months to allow prices to recover.
The current over-supply is equivalent to a year's throughput from the Port of Napier. The ramifications for the regional council's sale of the port, and the planned tree-planting programme the sale money may be used on, are anyone's guess.
Ditto the impact on the much-vaunted "billion trees" project, which primarily revolves around radiata pine.
Another question needing answer is: if one million tonnes on Chinese wharves is the benchmark around which prices rise or fall, why no industry reaction until that inventory reached five million tonnes?
We've seen a similar scenario with milk powder: Fonterra continued to pump product on to an overloaded market, forcing a price collapse that saw farmers having to extend debt-levels well beyond what was prudent to survive.
Okay, milk has a short use-by date and you can't just turn off supply so have to make something of it, while trees can be left to grow some more and still be cut profitably later, but the point is that New Zealand is fooling itself if it thinks it can feed (or build) the world with low-value bulk commodities.
At any time, far larger more flexible producers can manipulate these markets to their benefit – and our significant loss. Virtually all our pastoral agriculture works to the same "bulk is good" premise, but we will never be big enough in any product to be more than pawns, globally.
So why do we even try to compete at this level?
We must realise our agricultural future relies on developing high-end products that fetch premium prices, and make quality our watchword.
Right now, faced with the need to mitigate climate and ecological change by minimising our emissions, is surely the prime time to adapt our farming systems to this improved reality.
That includes forestry. Farming quick-grow exotics may help store carbon, but only until the trees are cut, so you have to keep increasing the area planted to have any lasting benefit.
Besides, pines ruin the land they're grown on for anything else, whereas native ecological systems build and nurture it.
Yes, natives require longer-term thinking and investment, but the lack of such is exactly why we're in the current crisis.
And I'd suggest selling rare quality timbers would return far more value from more stable markets than pinus radiata does for us now.
• Bruce Bisset is a freelance writer and poet. Views expressed are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's.