With its headquarters in Moheda near Växjö, family-owned ATA Timber has been striking out on a path of growth.

Set up following the second world war by Tage Andersson (a pioneer of dual cutting sawblades), now chairman of the board, the company also features family members Rose-Marie Tagesson (ATA financial manager) and Roger Tagesson (ATA sales manager).

The first mill, featuring a simple circular saw, started in Hökaboda and continued until 1959, when the equipment was moved to Åboda.

A period of growth has seen ATA expand to the six sawmills it owns today, including two facilities it acquired from Rörvik last year. One of these – Sandsjöfors – is currently undergoing the construction of a new sawline which will add 50,000m3 of capacity when operational later this summer, increasing annual group production capacity to around 425,000m3.

The company also has a pulp mill and a forest management and purchasing company.

UK market questions

Sitting down with Mr Tagesson and group CEO Claes Svensson, it is clear that it is currently an interesting and dynamic global timber market.

And, they say, one where UK buyers need to make decisions in order to secure their timber in the future. Their honest view is other markets are prepared to pay more for their timber.

The UK is ATA’s largest market and therefore an important customer, with a close working relationship with QP Timber.

But there is clearly growing competition from other markets, with ATA receiving regular visits from Chinese and US customers. “I think there needs to be some change in England, otherwise we will look to other markets,” said Mr Tagesson.

“US prices are going up, in Sweden they are going up and in China they are going up.

There is a question in England about prices. It’s a global market today. It’s very important we get the signals from the market.

“About one-third of the production goes to the UK. We have to clarify what we want to do with the English market, as to whether to cut down supply or not.

“I think the market will grow in the US,” Mr Tagesson added.

Two US customers had visited Moheda the day before TTJ’s visit and back in January a US-bound shipment from ATA and Vida accounted for the largest shipment ever of sawn timber being loaded at the Port of Karlshamn. Nearly 45,000m3, or more than 12,600 timber packages, were loaded on the vessel Cileo di Cartagena, chartered by Grieg Star Shipping and destined for Morehead City in North Carolina and Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Coupled with increased US demand, Denmark and Sweden are also very big markets for ATA.

“Every European country is growing,” Mr Tagesson added, citing Holland, Belgium, Germany, and Poland as good markets, while the Egyptian pine market was described as picking up.

“China is a fantastic market. They do not want to buy 1,000m3, they want 10,000m3.” And with container prices reportedly going down again, Swedish sawmills could be shipping a lot more wood to the Chinese market.

But while demand is good, southern Sweden has not been without its problems in terms of high log prices and over-capacity. “Log prices are increasing in Scandinavia and capacity has to reduce in this region,” added Mr Tagesson.

Moheda Mill

The Moheda mill itself is the largest in the ATA group, with a 130,000m3 production capacity.

Situated on a 1km-long site, it is the largest private employer in Moheda. It cuts about 68% spruce, with most product being 45mm-thick C24 structural timber, with 38mm product for the US market.

Some 80-90% of production is exported, with the port of Karlshamn being used for exports and timber treatment. Trucks also regularly leave the Moheda mill for the Danish market.

Four planing lines are on site, with one producing for the US market. There is also a building for small diameter timber such as slating battens – 25x50mm & 38x50mm. Recent investments have included three new double trucks for large loads. During our visit one of these was being loaded with 63x125mm timber for a Swedish customer. Some new kilns were also installed around Christmas last year.

The new sawmill line at Sandsjöfors is currently one of its big investments, which will start production in the autumn 2017. Raw materials will be made up of sawlogs in 2.5–3.1m lengths and further processing will be completed by a modern planing mill.

“We invest all the time,” added Mr Tagesson. “Over the last 18-20 months we have invested SKr200m.”