Log exports threaten europe’s sawmills

21 July 2021

Rising exports of logs from Europe are risking the future of sawmills across the continent says Nicolas Douzain, director of France’s National Timber Federation

Europe must act decisively and quickly to curb high log exports and save its wood processing industries.

Without sufficient supplies for sawmills, there will be direct consequences for the timber sector downstream. It will no longer be able to source materials in Europe and be dependent on imports.

The log supply crisis is of a severity never seen before and is only going to get worse. It’s time to wake up to the fact that European mills are facing closures if nothing is done to stop the raw material haemorrhage. In oak, 35% to 100% of private forest sales are being exported to China. Sawmills are lacking up to a third of normal supply.

In 2020, 18 million European softwood logs were exported, double the level of 2019 and in the last four months this raw material leakage has increased 1.5 times. The same situation applies in beech logs. Overall 20 million m3 of European logs were exported in 2020 and this will rise to 30 million m3 in 2021 if nothing changes.

Russia’s decision to ban log exports and China’s strategy based on capture of raw materials are set to increase tenfold the outflow of material that European manufacturers need in order to work and fuel European consumption.

Supply problems are now being felt among all sawmillers’ customers, from carpenters and builders to retailers and manufacturers. The logistics sector is also threatened with significant disruption if pallet and packaging manufacturers cannot source wood products locally.

Europe shows a strong political will when it comes to ecological transition and reducing CO2 emissions and it is counting on wood, as the building material of the future, to achieve its objectives. Massive exports of logs threaten to cancel out these efforts, resulting in more carbon emissions than trees store in their lifetime.

Europe is among the last regions not to have a strategy for valorisation of its natural resources, while we, the companies involved in primary processing of wood, are building a sector as European industry should be; modern, responsible and sustainable. But European companies cannot invest and modernise without secure raw material supplies.

This trade in European logs has taken hold over 15 years and we are now on the cliff edge. Allowing it to continue threatens the wood industry’s self-sufficiency and the future of craft, construction and logistics sectors, while also risking our ecological goals.

Following the launch of a French petition urging controls on oak log exports, other European sawmills in central Europe have asked our Federation to widen its scope to all logs, which we have done. We appeal to entrepreneurs, processors, customers and end users to wake up to the fact that your sawmill industry is in mortal danger and sign and share the petition, which is at https://lnkd.in/dU4tvWt