Timber sales downbeat in 2009

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Procurements from private forests totalled 16.4 million cubic metres, which is a little over half of the volume attained in the previous year. The year’s total purchases equalled about 21 million cubic metres of felled timber.

"The reorganisation of the forest-based sector must clarify the roles of the different actors and increase supply of forest-related services,” says Senior Vice President Anders Portin of the Finnish Forest Industries Federation. "We need fresh operating models and active entrepreneurs who can supply forest owners with convenient services because this would spur timber sales," Portin continues.

December sales sprint

The stumpage prices of softwood logs fell by an average of 20% in 2009, while birch log stumpage prices were down 27% and pulpwood prices decreased by 16–20%. In December, pine and spruce logs fetched an average of €48 per cubic metre; the price of birch logs was around €35 per cubic metre. The average stumpage price of pine and birch pulpwood was €14 per cubic metre, while spruce pulpwood cost €18 per cubic metre.

The tax break available for timber sales revenue was halved from 50% to 25% at the turn of the year and this resulted in a final dash by sellers wanting to avail of the full break; the December purchase volume reached 6.1 million cubic metres, i.e. over a third of the total annual amount, thanks to this.

Sawmills suffered from short supply of logs during 2009. The record-high timber prices, which occurred in 2007 during an entirely different overall economic situation, still affected price expectations. December’s livelier sales activity lead to a slight improvement in this situation, although annual purchase volumes of pine and spruce logs were down 29% from the level achieved in 2008, while pulpwood purchases reduced by about half.
Demand for domestic timber remains strong   

Roundwood imports from Russia fell by three-quarters in 2009, leading to an increase in demand for domestic timber.

Forest owners earned some €0.7 billion in stumpage fees last year, in addition to which logging creates a substantial amount of jobs in the provinces.
The share of delivery sales decreased from the previous year’s 29% to 21%. The volume of these sales, in which timber is harvested by forest owners themselves and delivered to a point adjacent to a transport route, totalled 3.5 million cubic metres. Two-thirds of delivery sales focused on pulpwood.

Frost enables access to softer ground as well

On average about half of all timber stands are suitable for logging in winter; some stands have not been harvested as scheduled because of temperate winter weather over the last few years. Recent frosty weather has eased harvesting conditions as softer ground is now also accessible in Southern Finland for the first time in a long while. Timber harvesting in soft peatlands has been curtailed by the shorter-than-usual cold spells of the last few years, but weather conditions now look promising in this respect.

Further information:
Anu Islander, Senior Advisor (Forestry),
Finnish Forest Industries Federation,
tel. +358 9 132 6678