How forests help pension funds shelter from market storms

Dozens of mythologies and religions around the world consider trees sacred. Buddha, after achieving enlightenment, sat under a banyan tree for seven days. In the Garden of Eden, the two most important plants were the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In Celtic mythology, trees were of vital importance to Druids, for whom the oak was one of the most sacred objects.

Nowadays, trees have largely lost their spiritual value, gaining a financial one instead. Apart from their long-established importance to several industries, trees and farmlands have emerged as an interesting way for institutional investors to tap uncorrelated returns.

The Sitka spruce grows quickly compared with other trees: a full-cycle takes 35-40 years. Its financial appeal is now so large that today one out of every two trees that grow in the UK are the Alaskan-native conifers. 200 years ago, there were none.

The good thing about timber is that it’s not like wheat or barley or any other agricultural crop, meaning you don’t have to harvest it at a certain time. The tree just continues to grow for up to 200 years. So if you don’t like the price today, and you’ve got enough cash to pay the bills, then you can leave the trees to grow for another year or two.

When you do come to harvest, there’s more timber there. Because the trees just get taller and broader every year.

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