Forest owners are left out in the wood boom

Wood is a popular building material. According to their own statements, forest owners do not benefit from this as much as other players in the market. The costly consequences of forest damage bring additional concerns.

At your fingertips: Wood is a popular building material and is available in abundance

Dhe demand for wood is great, but the Hessian forest owners see themselves at a disadvantage. Price increases for the building material in demand around the world do not go down well with them: These concern the sawn timber of the sawmill industry, not the round wood or raw wood from the forest, as Christian Raupach says, the managing director of the Hessian forest owners association, which represents private and municipal owners. “It’s a divided market.” The price of raw wood has fallen continuously since 2015. “The low point was October 2020.”

Heat, storms and bark beetles have severely damaged large forest areas in Hesse, too. Trees, especially spruces, had to be felled en masse and filled the market. “The damaged wood is the reason that prices have been so depressed,” says Raupach.

More trees felled than ever since 1990

According to the Federal Statistical Office, Germany exported the record amount of 12.7 million cubic meters of raw wood last year. In 2020, more trees were felled than ever since German reunification – around 80.4 million cubic meters of wood. Bad for the forest owners: the so-called damaged wood made up far more than half. There is much less money for “Käferholz” at the dealer.

“The suppliers of raw wood are currently hardly benefiting from the growing demand,” say the statisticians. The prices for this have risen moderately recently, but in February 2021 they were 2.3 percent below the level of the same month last year and “far below the level” of 2015 (minus 27.3 percent). In contrast, according to the Federal Office, conifer lumber was on average 20.6 percent more expensive in March this year than a year earlier.

The Landesbetrieb Hessen-Forst, which is particularly responsible for the state forest in the state, is also feeling the effects of this development. “The demand for sawn timber is great, raw wood is generally available in sufficient quantities,” says spokeswoman Michelle Sundermann. “The forest owners who make the raw wood available do not yet benefit from the sale of sawn timber to the same extent as timber dealers and sawmills.” However, the so-called lead range – good spruce logs with a diameter of around 25 centimeters – is almost back on the level of Arrived in 2018.

“Historically catastrophic” location

Sundermann expects that the price increases will soon become noticeable in the forest: “That is when the stores of the timber merchants and sawmills are used up and supplies are needed.” How much wood and especially softwood in what quality can be delivered is still known Not. “That depends to a large extent on the extent of the damage this year.”

Forest owners are not only concerned about prices. There are also costs for reforestation. Some owners in Hesse have lost a third of their forest due to the heat and beetles, which has to be replanted, reports Raupach. Per hectare that is afforested, up to 30,000 euros are incurred. Overall, he described the economic situation of the forestry operations as “historically catastrophic”.

Hessen-Forst also refers to the upcoming challenges: “We are currently investing in the forest of the future,” says spokeswoman Sundermann. It is about more intensive care of the forest, reforestation, but also about traffic safety or beetle monitoring. “This is very costly at the moment, and there are no revenues against it.”

The forest owners would not only benefit from an “appropriate increase” in the price of raw wood, says association director Raupach. Something is happening and the sawing industry is gradually reacting. It is also about the other services of the forest, which should be paid for by the energy and climate fund, for example. “Forests do a lot more than just produce wood,” says Raupach, referring to its climate protection and recreational functions.