New statistics from the Swedish Forest Industries Federation show that Sweden is still one of the world’s largest exporters of sawn and planed timber. In fact, Sweden is the second largest exporter of timber in the world after Canada, with a total export value last year of SKr20.7bn, which was approximately the same level as for 2002.

However, exports of sawn and planed timber at 11.2 million m3 showed a reduction of 0.3 million m3 compared to the previous year’s record figures. This was mainly due to lower export volumes to countries other than Europe. In fact, Russia and the Baltic states are now exporting more than 6 million m3 to some of Sweden’s main markets, especially lower qualities to North Africa where Swedish exports have virtually halved. At the same time, Swedish low quality timber has been subject to intense competition in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. It is therefore worth noting that not less than 35% of Sweden’s total export volume consisted of planed timber last year, whereas 10 years ago it was only 20%.

Total sawmill production amounted to 17.3 million m3 of sawn softwood, which is 4% more than the previous record year of 2002. Sawmills’ profitability is also forecast to have increased in 2003 by 3-4% in comparison with 3.5% for 2002 and zero the year before.

Industry restructuring

The restructuring of the sawmill industry in Sweden is continuing with the proposed formation of Norrskog Wood Products, a company that will be owned by the Norrskog forest owners association. The basis for this is the acquisition of 100% of the shares in Camfore AB by Norrskog, which previously owned just 31% of the shares. As a result the three sawmills and a planing mill that formed part of the Camfore Group will be combined with Norrskog’s own sawmill and glulam factory to form the new company. Norrskog Wood Products will thus have a total production capacity of 450,000m3 of sawn wood products, 100,000m3 of planed wood products and 25,000m3 of glulam products. The company will have 280 employees.

“By co-operating within Norrskog Wood Products, the various production units will have greater opportunities of competing successfully on the wood products market,” said Norrskog president Nils Nilsson. “It will also enable them to undertake product and market development with greater emphasis and more resources in order to produce more processed and customer adapted products.”

Sweden’s largest wood industry business, which was formed in August last year by a merger between the sawmilling and timber processing units of Sveaskog and Mellanskog under the name of Royal Star Wood Products AB, has changed its name to Setra Group AB. The company’s activities are divided into two areas: Setra Sawn Products and Setra Wood Products. The company has 14 sawmills producing 2.3 million m3 of sawn wood products per year within Setra Sawn Products, plus five production units and eight distribution units within Setra Wood Products. Total annual sales are SKr5.5bn and there are 1,400 employees.

The Swedish wooden house industry showed a 20% increase last year over the number of dwellings produced the previous year. Also in the housing field, two six-storey blocks of flats in Umeå in the north of Sweden are to be raised another three-storeys, with wood being chosen as the structural material. The original choice was reinforced concrete but this was changed to wood since the construction period was much shorter and the whole structure was only one-third the weight of concrete.

Benefits of wood use

The Nordic Timber Council has issued its first validation report, produced by the International Institute for Environment and Development in the UK, which aims to improve the understanding of the benefits of using wood products and their impact on mitigating climate change.

The report points out that climate change is one of the most pressing and complex issues facing society in the 21st century. Increased use of forests and wood products, while not replacing the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at source, does make an important contribution towards tackling the problem of climate change. The use of wood products can also provide broader social, economic and environmental benefits.

Ending on a sporting note, Anders Warg is getting excited about the Olympics Games. The managing director of the Östavall sawmill, owned by Norrskog and soon to be included in Norrskog Wood Products, said that Greece has been the company’s best market for some years and holding the Olympics there this year is boosting business substantially.