WoodWeek 23 May 2018
Westpac Bank economist Paul Clark has released a 39-page report outlining the bank’s view of the short and long-term prospects for the forest and wood products industry.
He says the near-term outlook is less positive for log producers. Residential building activity in China has begun to slow, with recent indicators suggesting that there has been a decline in completed dwellings. The implementation of recently announced and wide-ranging structural reforms in China, slower economic conditions overall and tighter credit conditions are likely to deepen this contraction, slowing demand for New Zealand exports.
Given that the slowdown in demand from China is unlikely to be offset by any significant increases in other markets, it is reasonable to expect that global forestry product prices will fall from the current levels. The combination of lower demand and falling prices will not be good news for New Zealand’s forestry sector, although an expected weakening of the New Zealand dollar offers up the possibility of some relief. Firming global economic activity is, however, likely to make things worse, driving up sea freight rates.
Under these conditions, forest owners and forestry managers are much more likely to limit their harvesting activities than they might have been in the past, which will mean lower revenues and falling investment returns according to Mr Clark.
Also this week, Sumitomo Forestry's NZ unit has just posted a record profit. In 2016 the company bought the local forests from Hancock to secure more supply for its wood processing plant.
This week we have for you:
Manuka partnership for Te Uru RakauTe Uru Rakau (Forestry New Zealand) will partner with Manuka Farming New Zealand to plant 1.8 million Manuka trees across New Zealand this year, Forestry Minister Shane Jones has announced.
“This Government has a target to get one billion trees in the ground over the next ten years and doing that will require innovation and genuine partnerships with the private sector, local councils, iwi and NGOs,” Shane Jones said.
“Te Uru Rakau will provide up to $1.8 million to Manuka Farming New Zealand to source seedlings, work with landowners to undertake site assessments to assess land suitability, and provide an overall planting plan.
“Seedlings will then be provided free of charge to landowners who proceed with planting. Individual assessments to assess land suitability for establishing Manuka plantations will take place this month and next and planting will occur from July to September.
“Manuka is a valued native forest species and plantations can help prevent erosion as well as providing diversified income streams and environmentally sustainable land-use options for landowners.
“Products from Manuka, such as honey and oil, are in high and increasing demand both domestically and globally. The planting plan will take into account the suitability of available land for production of Manuka honey, readiness for planting this winter, and availability of suitable Manuka cultivars.
Manuka Farming New Zealand will purchase most of the seedlings from Kauri Park Nurseries and already has 100,000 seedlings available.
“Landowners will need to cover the costs of dispatching the seedlings from the nursery, pest and weed control, fencing if required, planting costs and post-plant monitoring.
“In order to ensure the best possible delivery of outcomes, the approach also includes the funding of initial consultancy services to landowners via Manuka Farming New Zealand.
“This will include confirmation of sites suitable for Manuka, ensuring effective pest control is in place, land preparation can be completed in time for planting, seedlings are matched to the available site and confirmation that labour for planting is available,” Shane Jones said.
Landowners who are interested in this initiative should contact Manuka Farming New Zealand directly: Manuka Farming New Zealand.
Study: More than enough fibre for new mill'More than enough' wood fibre to supply proposed $180M Kawerau plant, report says - Concerns that there may not be enough wood fibre to supply a new $180 million particleboard plant proposed for Kawerau have been quashed by an industry study which concludes "there is more than enough wood available" although it notes the increased demand may push up prices in an industry dependent on low-cost supply.
China’s Guangxi Fenglin Wood Industry Group last year announced plans to establish a plant in Kawerau by 2020 to produce 600,000 cubic metres of panel boards a year and generate 100 new jobs, at an expected cost of $180 million.
That prompted push back from some in the industry, with the Wood Processors & Manufacturers Association of New Zealand raising concerns that timber mills in the region didn’t produce enough wood fibre to supply the proposed plant as well as existing big pulp mills of Kinleith in Tokoroa and Tasman in Kawerau, which are owned by Japan’s Oji Fibre Solutions. Fenglin’s proposed plant is expected to initially produce particle board and later expand to medium-density fibre board (MDF).
"There is more than enough wood available to support an additional 700,000 cubic metres of domestic fibre demand," Finland forestry consultancy Indufor concluded in its evaluation of wood fibre availability for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. "The question becomes the availability by fibre type (and hence fibre cost)."
Pulp log prices in New Zealand have remained remarkably static over recent years even though prices for other log types have surged higher.
Data from NZX's agricultural analysis business AgriHQ shows average national pulp log prices have fallen over the past six years, from $52.60 a tonne in the first quarter of 2012 to $50.50 a tonne in the first quarter of this year. That's in contrast to other log prices, with A-grade export logs surging from $82.70 a tonne to $131.30 a tonne over the same period, and domestic S1 logs jumping from $98.40 a tonne to $131.20 a tonne.
Indufor notes that industrial fibre is "relatively low cost', and is sourced from forest operations in the form of pulp logs and residues from logging operations and sawmills.
"Low raw material costs are crucial to competitiveness, and hence the viability of the industry," Indufor said.
The forestry consultancy said low-quality small diameter logs, which had traditionally been used by local industrial fibre plants have experienced strengthening demand in recent years as a result of a buoyant log export market competing for a similar product and solid domestic demand.
This meant central North Island industrial fibre plants had to source logs from other regions and use industrial and small sawlogs that could otherwise be exported.
"This highlights that the shortfall is an economic rather than physical deficit," Indufor said. "If the price for low-grade export logs drops, the volume available for domestic consumption will increase."
The use of forest binwood had increased in recent years to help meet shortfalls and shorter binwood types were underutilised due to handling costs and the fact that it was less suitable for the pulp and paper sector, Indufor said. The short binwood was suitable for particleboard although there is uncertainty over volumes and the cost of extraction, it said.
The report noted that demand for sawmill residue was strong, with all central North Island woodchip consumed and additional supply sourced from as far afield as Northland and Taranaki. Shavings were frequently burnt on site for power or heat generation or used in agriculture, sawdust showed periodic surpluses and other mill residues were used on site or sold as boiler fuel, it said.
"The impact of the new facility on central NI wood fibre availability (and hence cost) will therefore depend on the quantity of ‘in-surplus’ material that is available, namely short or less accessible forest binwood, and to a lesser extent, sawdust from processing facilities," Indufor said.
It estimated about 250,000 cubic metres a year of forest binwood may be available although it will only be recovered if it can be delivered at a lower cost than the next cheapest supply source, and sawdust volumes of 100,000 cubic metres a year are also likely to be available.
"The balance of the new demand (350,000 cubic metres per annum) will need to be fulfilled by logs currently being exported (mostly industrial grade and small sawlogs), as well as further inter-region transfer of logs and woodchips," it said. "This will push up the average delivered cost of fibre to all fibre users in the North Island."
Indufor said some increase in domestic sawmilling activity is possible, with the increased capacity helping contain fibre costs.
"If a greater volume of whole logs was processed onshore, then there would be extra mill residues available for domestic industrial fibre consumers," it said.
Capacity would need to increase by at least 25 percent, or 900,000 cubic metres above 2017 consumption, in order for the impact on feedstock price to industrial fibre consumers to be contained, it said. Higher forest binwood recoveries would also assist in containing fibre price increases, it said.
Fenglin’s planned investment in Kawerau has been hailed as a huge benefit to the district by Mayor Malcolm Campbell, who noted the area had traditionally faced a shortage of job opportunities.
Founded in 2000, Fenglin was one of the earliest engineering board manufacturers in China and the first in Guangxi Province, according to its website. Listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, Fenglin has three MDF plants and one particle board plant in China with total capacity of 810,000 cubic metres a year, and also owns about 14,000 hectares of forests to secure wood supply.
With plants in China’s Guangxi and Guangdon provinces, the company said it began to explore more international opportunities from 2015.
Economist: Slowdown coming for forestryNew Zealand's forestry sector has had a stellar two to three years, with China soaking up the country's logs as fast as they could be sent there. However, Westpac industry economist Paul Clark explains clouds are gathering.
New Zealand's forestry owners, managers and contractors are being cautioned to heed the changing times, as Chinese building activity is expected to ease in the year ahead.
Westpac industry economist Paul Clark said the Chinese softening in demand during the next year is expected to slow demand for New Zealand logs, and prices should fall as a consequence.
"This won't be good news for forestry owners, managers and contractors, who have, for some time, dined out on China's massive appetite for logs.
"Cashflow-dependent contractors will be especially vulnerable during this time," Mr Clark said in report on the forestry and wood processing sector.
However, as with every supply and demand story there is a winner, and Mr Clark picked lower prices would be better news for the downstream wood processing industry.
That sector had struggled during the past two to compete with prices paid by the Chinese for logs produced locally, he said.
"Since 2008, the volume of logs exported has grown massively," Mr Clark said.
That was mainly because of the growth in demand from China. Almost 12.7 million cubic metres, or 70% of softwood logs harvested in New Zealand were exported to China in the year ending June 2017.
That figure compared with just 1.4 million cubic metres exported in 2008, he said.
"Not surprisingly, earnings generated from exporting logs to China have also risen sharply, from $131 million in 2008 to $1.9billion for the year ending June 2017," he said.
Mr Clark said the increase was largely driven by strong demand from China's subsidised wood processing sector, supplying its own construction sector. Increased Chinese demand came from a lowering of import tariffs on logs and a clampdown on logging activity, following an extended period of unsustainable harvesting in China.
"Industry sources have suggested that logs from New Zealand are mostly processed into timber products that are used to build dwellings," Mr Clark said.
Both Port Otago and South Port at Bluff have recorded record annual log turnover during several quarters of each of the past two years.
Since 2008, softwood log harvesting increased 50% to 33.1 million cubic metres in 2017.
Export log exports grew 11.1% from 2016 to 2017, with 19.4 million cubic metres going offshore.
Mr Clark said, over the next decade, up to 30% of wood available for harvest would come from forests less than 1000ha in size.
There are about 13,500 small forest owners whose plantations are less than 40ha.
Mr Clark said the near-term outlook was less positive for log producers, than his longer-term outlook.
"Residential building activity in China has begun to slow, with recent indicators suggesting that there's been a decline in completed dwellings.
The implementation of wide-ranging structural reforms in China, slower economic conditions overall and tighter credit conditions is likely to deepen contraction, slowing demand for New Zealand exports, he said.
However, Mr Clark said the medium to long-term outlook for demand looked promising for log producers.
"As the world's population expands, so too will the demand for logs.
"Growth will be driven by emerging markets, especially those that have large populations and rising income levels," he said of countries such as India, the Philippines, Indonesia and potentially Brazil. Demand from India, in particular, was expected to grow strongly as its economy expanded, following a similar, albeit delayed, trajectory to that of China's economy.
"That's not to say that there will be no further growth in demand from China," Mr Clark said.
While China's population growth had slowed dramatically because of its strict adherence in the past to the one-child policy, and its economic growth pace had "ratcheted down", China's urbanisation drive still had some way to run, Mr Clark said.
"This is likely to mean that over the medium to long-term, residential building activity should continue to grow strongly, which is likely to be good news for New Zealand exports," he said.
Russia remained a potential threat, given it had dramatically increased its timber exportsto China in recent years, Mr Clark said.
New Zealand's downstream sawmillers, in particular, should benefit from having to pay lower prices in the future and having more logs being directed to their mills, as external demand slows.
"Whether they will be able to take advantage of this depends on what happens to residential building activity domestically," Mr Clark said.
To see the full report, click here
Source: The Country
Sumitomo posts record profitSumitomo Forestry's NZ unit posts record annual profit after buying Hancock forests - Sumitomo Forestry NZ, the local unit of the Japanese timber conglomerate, posted a record profit last year after buying the timber plantations of US forestry investor Hancock in 2016 to secure more supply for its wood processing plant.
The timber company posted a profit of $48.9 million in the year ended 31 Dec 2017, from a loss of $18.4 million a year earlier when its earnings were hurt by a $62 million reduction in the value of its plantations, according to its latest financial accounts. Sumitomo's 2016 accounts included nine months of contribution from Hancock's Tasman Pine Forests which it bought for $369 million. Sumitomo’s NZ forests were valued at about $310 million in 2017, up from $296 million in 2016 and just $24 million in 2015, its accounts showed.
Sumitomo set up wood processor Nelson Pine Industries near Richmond, some three decades ago. The plant is one of the world’s largest single-site medium-density fibreboard (MDF) makers, most of which is exported under the GoldenEdge brand, and it also manufactures laminated veneer lumber (LVL). The company already had about 5,000 hectares of forest and the Hancock purchase gave it freehold interest in about 20,437 hectares of forest land and leasehold interest in about 155 hectares of forest land in the Nelson/Tasman region.
For Sumitomo, securing supply of wood helped shore up its existing investment in manufacturing at a time when increased demand from China has been pushing up the price of logs and prompting many forest owners to ship their raw logs to Asia's largest economy.
Globally, wood is seeing somewhat of a resurgence, and Sumitomo is jumping on the trend, announcing plans earlier this year to build the world's tallest wooden skyscraper, dubbed the W350, in Tokyo. The planned 70-storey building will be a hybrid of mostly wood and steel and will include stores, offices, hotels and private homes.
The company's New Zealand unit didn't pay a dividend to its parent this year, or last year, according to its accounts. They show the last dividend payment of $46.5 million was paid in the 2015 financial year.
China wood trade updateDeclining wood products trade between China and the USA
- According to the data from China’s Customs the value of wood products trade between China and the USA fell 16% to US$1,90 million in March 2018. China’s imports dropped 5% to US$840 million while exports declined 23% to US$1,050 million. However, the value of wood products trade between China and the USA in the first three months of 2018 rose about 9% to US$6.26 billion, China’s imports increased about 6% to US$2.28 billion while exports value grew 10% to US$3.98 billion.
Log and sawnwood imports - China’s log imports from the USA in the first three months of 2018 totalled 1.41 million cubic metres, a year on year increase of 7% over the same period of 2017. China’s sawnwood imports from the USA in the first three months of 2018 rose 5% to 709,600 cubic metres.
Exports fibreboard and plywood - China’s fibreboard exports to the USA fell 11% to 71,200 cubic metres and plywood exports to the USA dropped 31% to 360,000 cubic metres in the first three months of 2018.
Our biennial FIEA transport and logistics technology conference, WoodFlow Logistics 2018 is running in Melbourne on 20-21 June with two free workshops for event delegates running on the afternoon of Tuesday 19 June. Full details can be found on www.woodflow.events.
UC engineering students going roboticUniversity of Canterbury engineers developing robotic skidder and forwarders. With the support of Forest & Wood Products Australia (FWPA) and Forest Growers Research (FGR), two small teams of University of Canterbury Engineering students have been working on developing ideas for next generation autonomous extraction machines.
The Forest Engineering students (Georgie Holdaway, Toby Bell and James Ma) have looked into the cut-over operating environment and explored ideas as to what a robotic extraction might look like.
The drawing shown (by Seamus Bardoul) is effectively a skidder capable of extracting trees, with the vision that a logging operation would have multiple units that extract the stems from a manned feller-buncher that fells and loads, and autonomously brings them back to the landing for processing.
“You can see by the design that such robotic skidder would be very manoeuvrable, without the need for a cab have very low centre of gravity for stability, and with the stems being held in clambunk manner directly over the drive wheels have excellent traction capability”, says their supervisor Professor Rien Visser.
The second group of Mechanical and Mechatronic students (Jordan Treanor, Alex Hartley, Grant Harvey and Brendon May) have designed and are already building an autonomous model forwarder prototype.
“The goal here is here is proof of concept, and the real challenge will be in developing the guidance system that proves a machine can navigate itself through a forest environment,” says Visser.
Such a navigation system could then be installed into an existing forwarder, with the operator being able rest and relax as the forwarder drives itself to and from the landing. The team is being mentored by Prof XiaoQi Chen who specialises in mechatronic applications and has been involved in a number of FGR projects.
“Its great to see these young engineers getting involved in equipment design, it bodes well for additional equipment manufacturing opportunities and innovation that will link the next generation of forest engineers with mechatronic disciplines and skills coming out of Australasia in the near future”, says Chris Lafferty, FWPA R&D manager.
The upcoming Forest Safety & Technology conference series in Rotorua and Melbourne in August will feature automation speakers. Automation in logging has proven its ability to improve safety and productivity. See www.forestsafety.events for more details.
Timber Design Awards finalists chosenFinalists Announced for 2018 NZ Wood-Resene Timber Design Awards - NZ Wood has announced the eagerly-awaited Stage Two Finalists for the 2018 NZ Wood-Resene Timber Design Awards.
This is New Zealand’s only timber design award event and allows engineers, architects, architectural designers and builders to showcase innovation using timber. Both local and international companies look to these awards for timber design inspiration. Our projects are the equal of others worldwide, as this year’s crop of entries proves!
The competition has once again been extremely close, and judges were hard pressed to make their selections. We thank everyone who entered the awards, and hope you will enter again next time too.
Stage Two of the judging process will take place on August 7, when category winners and the supreme winner will be decided. All winners will be announced at a gala awards dinner at the Grand Millennium Hotel in Auckland on September 20, 2018.
This year’s judging panel comprises professionals from a variety of engineering and architectural backgrounds, and are all eminently qualified to assess the projects against entry criteria.
Scion public survey resultsScion recently conducted a survey among ordinary citizens concerning their views on issues and opportunities in the forestry industry. A total of 52 people were approached with clipboards and, among other questions, were asked whom they think should be held responsible to resolve issues in different parts of the supply chain. While the survey was small and the results are relevant to the particular region where the work was carried out, it is interesting to note that the public can often lay the blame for problems on a range of different parties.
Scion has proposed a significant new research project to develop a deep understanding of social license to operate issues along the supply chain. An international team, led by Scion and including Plant and Food Research, Lincoln University, University of Otago, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, University of Tasmania and the CSIRO are proposing to investigate social license across the natural resource sectors and throughout the supply chain in New Zealand and Australia to provide vulnerability maps, understand the best ways for leaders to collaborate to resolve conflict and to understand the role of the media.
To view the full results, click here.
For more information, contact Peter Edwards or Carel Bezuidenhout.
Training gain comingNew forestry apprenticeships on offer - Forestry companies in the Bay of Plenty region could benefit from new apprenticeship programmes designed to upskill their workers ahead of predicted industry growth.
Industry training organisation Competenz has launched two forest harvesting apprenticeships – one in manual operations and one in mechanised operations.
These apprenticeship programmes come at a time the forestry sector is poised for growth following the government's pledge in January to plant one billion new trees over the next ten years.
With mechanisation increasing the new apprenticeships will ensure apprentices gain key entry-level skills and knowledge before advancing to operation of mechanised processors and harvesters.
Competenz chief executive Fiona Kingsford said over 11,000 people were employed in the forestry sector in 2017 and 4339 more will be needed by 2022 to replace workers who retire or leave.
"This year alone there is demand for up to 1000 workers nationally and about 500 of those are needed to fill existing roles being vacated by people retiring or changing jobs.
"Our forestry participation data shows the Bay of Plenty region could need another 123 forestry workers this year," she said.
Kingsford said a qualified workforce leads to greater efficiency, safety, productivity and profitability.
"There's a lot of focus right now on the future of forestry – the goal to plant a billion trees, and the investment through the Provincial Growth Fund. It is vital our workforce is skilled and productive to meet the government's growth targets.
Source: Stuff News
Contractor Awards for East CoastThe 2018 Eastland Wood Council Forestry Awards were a record-breaker across the board, and fittingly produced the first two-time supreme winner.
Ricky Kuru – from Kuru Contracting – was toasted last night by more than 500 guests at the Awards dinner as the Eastland Wood Council Skilled Forestry Professional of the Year, as well as collecting the individual Roading Excellence Award. Mr Kuru last won the top award in 2013.
In its ninth year, the Awards attracted the most entries ever, the highest calibre of nominations, some of the closest competition in categories and the biggest celebration dinner. For the past 16 years Mr Kuru’s company has provided road line harvesting and road construction services to Hikurangi Forest Farms, and many others prior to that. He is known for his efficiency and high standard of work on all sorts of terrain. He has a strong focus on training for himself and his team – a trait he has carried since he first started in the forestry industry in 1992.
The multi-generational Kuru Contracting began as a family business, with Mr Kuru and his wife Leanne taking over from his own parents.
Sheldon Drummond, who chaired the Awards’ judging panel, praised Mr Kuru and his crew.
“He has diversified over the years and continued to develop excellence while providing excellent service to the companies he works for,” said Mr Drummond. “There were several others very close for that overall award, but Ricky came through as a clear winner in the end.”
The Awards have continued to grow in both stature and numbers over the past nine years.
“It is an industry which is growing but we are also now into our third generation of forestry people from within the region. So it is an industry which is feeding on its own expertise and we are really developing excellence as we go. Entries are up about 25% on last year and just continue to grow. We are just over the moon with the quality of entrants and where the industry has come from and gone to in the past 30-plus years. Forestry on the East Coast is no longer a fledgling industry – it is up and running and growing.”
When the first commercial logging in plantation forestry began in the region back in 1985 in Patunamu Forest, the loggers came from Bay of Plenty.
“That has all changed now and it is awesome to see leading expertise emerging from within Tairawhiti,” he said. “Nine years ago, the Eastland Wood Council decided to start an award system that would mimic what the Golden Shears and Young Farmer of the Year had done, professionalising the industry and it’s people, and now East Coast is leading the way. We were the first ones to do this and now other regions throughout the country are following suit.”
Plans are already well underway for an extra special celebration for next year’s 10-year anniversary.
Contractor charged for wrong callForestry workers call water taxi instead of 111 for injured colleague - A forestry company that took an injured worker to hospital by water taxi instead of calling emergency services has been charged under health and safety legislation.
Marris Couper Logging had a team of eight working on a hilltop in the Marlborough Sounds when a man's leg was fractured by a rogue wire rope, used to haul logs up the hill.
The man had hooked up a log to the rope but could not get enough slack on the rope to attach a second log, a WorkSafe summary of facts said.
But when the hauler on top of the hill gave some slack to the rope, an overhead cable came off the stump it was attached to at the bottom of the hill.
The wire rope retracted up the hill at speed and struck the man, pinning him to the steep hillside, at Homewood Bay in the Kenepuru Sound.
Source: Marlborough Express
Iwi 'locked into' forestry linked to river damageIwi have little option but to keep forestry on land handed back by the Crown, a top of the Nelson/Tasman region iwi says.
As the forestry industry faces criticism for the environmental impact of some of its operations, Ngati Koata says the structure of its settlement deal gave it little room to move.
The iwi received around 9000 ha of forestry land across Nelson and Tasman as part of the settlement on its Treaty of Waitangi claim, signed in 2012, including most of the pine plantations in Nelson's Maitai River catchment.
Tighter controls on forestry in the catchment were called for last month, after research confirmed that harvested or recently replanted pine forests were a significant source of environmentally-damaging fine sediment in the river, in line with findings from river systems in Tasman district.
Ngati Koata found itself in a very difficult position, bound by a Crown lease on the land that didn't expire for another two years, chairman of the Ngati Koata Trust Frank Hippolite said.
The iwi had entered into an agreement with the company that held the lease, Tasman Pine Forests, to replant pine forest blocks as they were harvested, otherwise Ngati Koata would have to pay the liability for carbon credits that had slumped in value, he said.
"We have a choice ... we either replant, or we don't replant.
"Just to pay the carbon credits would take most of the money we got back in the settlement."
Carbon credits given to Ngati Koata as part of the deal plunged to 14 cents a tonne in 2013, shortly after the Iwi signed the deed of settlement.
It emerged that New Zealand companies bought international credits from the Ukraine and Russia, since described by commentators as fraudulent.
Ngati Koata didn't own any forest plantations before the settlement, and said it had concerns about the environmental impacts of stripping the hills of native bush.
However, talks with Tasman Pine Forests, a subsidiary of the Japanese firm, Sumitomo Forestry NZ, had been positive, Hippolite said.
Source: Nelson Mail
Marlborough flooding brings forestry finesA forestry company has been fined after leaving logs in a stream that overflowed and flooded a family home in Marlborough.
Merill and Ring New Zealand, an American-owned company that manages forestry blocks, will pay $20,000 in reparation costs after breaching its resource consent.
The company was supposed to remove any "woody debris" from a stream near a 230-hectare block in the Waikakaho Valley, north of Blenheim, according to its consent.
But despite the Marlborough District Council telling the company to remove the logs and other forestry waste in June 2016, it allowed the debris to pile up.
Heavy rain flooded the stream five months later, and the stream burst its banks, sending water over a nearby family home.
Source: Marlborough Express
Buy and Sell
... and finally ... a wee bit of fun
Father O’Flaherty asked Mrs O’Reilly how many children she had. Four was the
Facebook isn't for finding dates; it's for finding people we used to date. Then we silently judge them, feel better about ourselves. That's the only use for Facebook." - James Corden.
One co-worker's quip, however, stopped me short. "What is it about you," he asked, "that makes your kids want to get so far away from you?"
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