Sweden’s sawn timber production is forecast to reach a record level this year as a result of clearances of wind-thrown timber from last January’s storm. In the first eight months production increased by approximately 5% for sawn timber compared with the same period last year, according to findings published in Skogsbarometern (The Forest Barometer), a study made by LRF Konsult and FöreningsSparbanken with the aid of Research International. The supply of timber is therefore plentiful at present for the forest industry in the south of Sweden, particularly for sawmills within the areas worst hit by the storm but it may be a challenge to maintain supplies for such sawmills in a few years when the reserve of timber is used up.

At present private sawmills in the south have 7.5 million m3 of saw timber stored at 115 terminals while Södra has a further 4 million m3 in 30 new terminals. Clearance work is expected to continue until next spring.

Skogsbarometern points out that although sawmills are greatly dependent on exports, Sweden is their largest market by volume, and it is therefore beneficial for them that the construction sector there is currently expanding rapidly. Demand for wood is also very high in the US, which has benefited Swedish exports, and demand is expected to increase in the wake of this year’s hurricanes.

Weak profitability

Despite high production levels, relatively low prices have meant that profitability for sawmills is still weak. However, it is estimated that prices will rise over the next three years and Swedish forest owners in particular are looking to the future with optimism.

Company results for the first nine months of this year show positive results for Södra with an increase in turnover but a drop in profits compared with the same period for 2004. Sveaskog also showed positive results although considerably reduced from the same period last year, while SCA, Setra and Norskog Wood Products all showed losses.

Studies of forestry costs and revenues made jointly by the Forestry Research Institute of Sweden and the National Board of Forestry in Sweden show that forestry costs increased last year while wood revenues stood still. To combat this negative effect, Lennart Rådström, head of research at the Forest Research Institute of Sweden, considers that productivity must be increased by using the latest techniques and that the value of timber must be raised so that forest owners’ profitability can be maintained at a satisfactory level.

The KK-Foundation’s (Knowledge Foundation) recent announcement of an investment in research aimed at obtaining more products from the Swedish forest in order to increase the forest industry’s export value should provide a welcome contribution to raising the value of timber. The Foundation has decided to set up two new company research schools based at universities and high schools that will bring together academic life and industry for co-production and knowledge. The two company research schools will together receive SKr38.4m over five years from the Foundation, providing that the participating companies contribute an equal amount.

Another way of increasing the value of timber has been developed and presented in a doctoral thesis by Urban Nordmark, working at Sveaskog. The technique, a further development of an existing one, involves three-dimensional simulation. By forming a three-dimensional image of the logs, the sawing simulator can calculate what the boards will look like before the logs are sawn, thus ensuring that sawing is done in such a way that the highest value is obtained from each log. “The best results are obtained when the technique is applied in the forest before the trunk is cut into logs,” said Dr Nordmark.

It is estimated that using this technique could increase the value by approximately SKr40 per m3 of timber, which means that a sawmill consuming 500,000m3 of timber per year can improve its profitability by approximately SKr20m annually.

Glulam to China

One of the results of a project formed to market Swedish wood products in China has been the delivery of the first glulam products from Europe to China. Although China will have no building code for glulam until next year at the earliest, Martinsons Trä in Bygdsiljum has supplied a test order of 14 glulam beams. Other orders resulting from the project are for panels and pressure impregnated wood.

Another development by a Swedish company in China is that of the Vida Group which, in conjunction with a local partner, is forming a new company, VIDA Hong Kong Ltd, based in Hong Kong. The new company will play an important part in the group’s future sales and distribution of sawn and planed timber on the Chinese market.

Komatsu Forest, which manufactures Valmet forest machines, is investing more than SKr30m to expand production at its Umeå factory by 30%. The reorganisation involved, which will be implemented alongside full-scale production at the factory, should be completed next year. The so-called paced production being introduced will halve the build-time for each machine.