Despite the high oil price and weak dollar, Finnish forest industry companies are showing improved results. Stora Enso, UPM-Kymmene and Finnforest have all increased their sales and improved their results. Among the reasons were internal measures and upward trends in the plywood market. In fact, figures issued by the Finnish Forest Industries Federation show that plywood production in Finland, at 300,000m3, was up more than 5% in the third quarter of this year compared with the same period last year, while the January-September production of 1 million m3, was up nearly 3%.

Sawn wood production for January to September at 9.9 million m3 was about the same as last year although production dropped back somewhat in the third quarter and, at 2.885 million m3 was 1.5% down on the same period the previous year. The lack of growth is attributed to problems in demand and occasional shortages of raw materials.

The overall production figure for the Finnish forest industry in the third quarter was nearly 8% higher than in the previous year, boosted by strong demand for paper and paperboard, while the January to September overall production figure was 6% higher than in the previous year.

As in Sweden, a major topic for discussion has been the stock of standing timber. A recent report by the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla) points out that growth and timber production in private forests has increased in recent years. The report says that, despite extensive felling, the stock of timber in private forests has increased by 40-50% over the past 40 years to approximately 1.5 billion m3 today. However, public funding used originally for such measures as drainage, has dropped from approximately €100m per year from the mid-70s to today’s annual level of €60m and is now mainly used for the care of young forests.

At a recent seminar Jouko Jaakkola, chairman of the Finnish Forest Industries Federation and president and CEO of M-real Corporation, expressed concern about forest resources and suggested that the Finnish state should change the focus of its forest policy and make increasing wood production a strategic objective. “If the forest industry cannot get sufficient roundwood domestically, it will have to reduce its production capacity,” he pointed out. “This would not be good for Finland’s economic development or employment. Finland needs its forest industry and forestry. The forest industry does not necessarily need Finland.

&#8220Finland needs its forest industry and forestry. The forest industry does not necessarily need Finland

Jouko Jaakkola, chairman, FFIF

“We must improve the quality of forest cultivation and wood production strategies, develop the necessary forestry measures at the right time and examine other ways to generate additional growth,” suggested Mr Jaakkola. He believes that raising the annual increment from the present 80 million m3 to 100 million m3 of wood is not impossible and that changing forest taxation so that it boosts forest growth and encourages the sale of wood should be considered.

Mr Jaakkola also emphasised that wood imports from neighbouring regions are important to ensure the supply of wood for Finnish industry. However, in future the Finnish forest companies could face difficulties with the supply of logs from Russia, a country from which it imports a quarter of the raw material needed. On a visit to Helsinki in October, Russian prime minister Michail Fradkov pointed out that Russia intended to reduce its export of logs and increase domestic and foreign investment in the processing of timber. He urged Finnish companies to invest in Russia and pointed out that a legal framework for the normal functioning of the timber industry in Russia is under way.

The latest in a number of innovative timber structures in Finland over the past five years was inaugurated when the staff of Metla’s Joensuu Research Centre moved into Metla House at the end of October. The three-storey building is the largest wooden office building in Finland and is the result of a two-stage architectural competition, which was organised in 2001-2002 and won by architect Antii-Matti Siikala. The building has been designed to accommodate 225 people and was constructed in 2003-2004.

The aim of this design was to use Finnish wood in innovative ways and to create an inspiring working environment. Wood is the main material used throughout the building, from the post-beam-slab system in the structural frame to the exterior cladding. Walls made of 100-year-old timber flank the entrance to the courtyard.

“As a large, pilot, wooden office structure, Metla House clearly shows that new innovative wooden solutions can be applied to the construction of normal large wooden buildings as well,” said Jari Parviainen, director of Metla in Joensuu.