German hardwood industry worries about the future

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Despite the good sales conditions for lumber, the German hardwood industry is looking to the future with concern given the rising prices for roundwood. The market is restless due to the calamity that has persisted for the fifth year as a result of drought, political efforts to limit the use of hardwood in particular, and an escalating energy crisis due to geopolitical developments.

As part of the annual hardwood talks, representatives of German forestry companies met with hardwood processing companies from all over Germany to discuss current market developments, especially with regard to the medium-term supply of raw materials.

Wood is becoming scarce

The aim of the event organized by the German Forestry Council (and German Timber Council) is, in addition to professional exchange, the development of joint solutions to challenges in the forest and wood cluster.

A considerable part of the total felling in Germany is still damaged wood. Stops in logging and extensification of use as well as the unfolding events in the current energy crisis are increasingly burdening the industry. The raw material wood available for the wood industry and consumers will become scarce under the current conditions. So far, the energy wood prices in particular have risen massively.

Beech: Firewood drives up prices

In the course of this development, there has been high price pressure for beech from the lower-quality ranges of energy and industrial wood. As a result, a price jump is also expected for lumber and roundwood. International market participants can currently withstand this price pressure by exporting the hardwood lumber produced in Germany. It remains to be seen whether this development will remain stable given a further shortage of raw wood and price increases for finished goods in view of the looming recession.

On the forest side, rising raw wood prices represent the basis for promoting mobilization. This will be a challenge in view of the timber construction offensives being pushed ahead and the framework conditions targeted by the federal government and some states. The production output of beech lumber is stable, but is around 10% below the level before the coronavirus pandemic.

Oak with record prices

Oak remains in high demand on the market. The prices in the highest bid process on the submission sites are still reaching record highs. Nevertheless, round wood will continue to be made available to supply the local oak sawmills in open sale.

But oaks are also having increasing problems with wood-destroying insects. Faster removal seems to be of essential importance for the preservation of the wood quality in the future. Depending on the certification of the companies and due to expiring permits, the use of plant protection products is not an alternative.

Colored hardwood: the challenge of quality

Variegated deciduous wood only accumulates more in calamity hotspots and often remains a by-product of normal use. However, this situation will gradually change as the proportion of hardwood in the stocks increases. Ash is still selling well as a “substitute wood” for oak. In the case of variegated hardwood, the species-specific quality in use poses a particular challenge. It is often only the piece of ground trunk that finds high-quality material use.

Conclusion: climate protection only with the use of wood

The participants of the forest and wood cluster meeting agreed in their conclusion in view of the current situation with the great challenges of the climate crisis and the way to more bioeconomy: The holistic approach of a sustainable, multifunctional forest management in a densely populated industrial country with a wide distribution of ownership and high social demands on the services of the forest ecosystem make a significant contribution to climate protection.

Only by mobilizing the renewable raw material wood and increasing the use of wood can the path to the bioeconomy be successfully trodden. Politicians are required to engage in dialogue to develop a wood strategy together with the stakeholders concerned.

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