The total quantity of timber felled in Norway last year amounted to 7.8 billion m³, an increase of 4% compared with 2000 and the highest level since 1997. The quantity of spruce rose by 2%, while pine increased by a full 9%.

The increase was particularly large towards the end of the year, with a 25% rise on the same period in 2001 (545,000m³ against 436,000m³) as the autumn was particularly good compared with the previous year’s wet autumn. In addition, the anticipation of a fall in prices in 2002 resulted in a large number of trees being felled.

However, there are fears that if the economic conditions for the Norwegian forest industry do not improve, imports will increase to such an extent that they could account for half of the timber used in Norway (compared with the present level of 28%). Difficult terrain, long transport distances and the high cost of transport are some of the disadvantages listed.

Inge Fjalestad, social political manager for the Norwegian Forest Owners’ Federation, points out that they cannot compete in the long term when economic conditions for the forest industry are more favourable in neighbouring countries. For example, transport costs in Norway are 30% higher than in Sweden where it is permitted to drive larger trucks taking heavier loads, he said.

His views are shared by the 18 county forest managers who have called for development of the road network in forest areas. Representatives of the industry have had discussions with the government to try to ensure that their operating conditions are at least equal to those in neighbouring countries.

As part of a policy of concentrating on its core business of publication papers, Norske Skog has sold several properties, including its head office building at Oxenøen, near Oslo, which has been sold with a long-term leaseback agreement. This transaction yielded a pre-tax profit of around NKr115m.

In addition, during the fourth quarter of 2001, Norske Skog reached agreements concerning the sale of its forest properties in the south of Norway, Sweden and Brazil for a total value of NKr1.3-1.4bn.

The properties in the south of Norway, which total 180,000ha, have been sold to Vifor A/S and the Opplysningsvesenets Fond for about NKr200m, subject to the approval of the appropriate authorities. The sale of the forest properties in Sweden, amounting to 85% of Norske Skog’s forest properties in that country, yielded pre-tax profits of around NKr200m, while the forest property in Brazil was sold at book value.

The Pisa Florestal forest in Brazil totals 102,000ha, of which 56,000ha is planted and intensively managed to produce an annual harvest of approximately 1.4 million m³. An agreement has been reached with the buyer (an investment fund advised by UBS Timber Investors) on a long-term supply contract, which will ensure a stable supply of pulpwood to the Norske Skog PISA newsprint mill.

After having bought 40,000m³ of timber in Helgeland, Norway, from private owners in recent years, Statskog has signed an agreement with two owners of 3,000m³ of spruce timber on the Swedish side of the border to provide outlets for their timber in Norway. ‘This will be an exciting project that will enable us to gain experience of developing a contact network on the Swedish side of the border,’ said Arild Tokle, forestry manager for Statskog in the district of Norland.

Permission for forestry operations has also had to be obtained from the National Board of Forestry in the county of Västerbotten, Sweden, since the area lies above the limit of cultivation in Sweden.

The forest involved has considerable resources but these have been used to a limited extent. The reasons for this include settlement patterns, price and the distance of industry from the forest. Statskog has entered into agreements with Norwegian buyers of timber so that pulp timber will be sold to Arbor Hattfjeldal, while timber for sawing will be transported by lorry and boat to Moelven‘s Van Severen sawmill in Namsos.

This sawmill, and 10 others belonging to Moelven Timber AS in Norway, were awarded PEFC certification in December by Det Norske Veritas, the Norwegian company responsible for authorisation and inspection. In July last year all eight district associations of the Norwegian Forest Owners’ Federation received PEFC certification. These associations with their 50,000 members are responsible for 78% of the annual timber harvested in Norway. This means that both the timber and the processed wood are now certified, with uncertified timber being primarily limited to imports.