The Romanian wood processing industry has its break pedal to the floor because it is lacking raw materials. But a larger, sustainable harvest is possible in Romania, according to the study published by the National Institute for R&D in Forestry and Prolemn.

Some excerpts from the news feed show the context of the Romanian forest sector and timber industry in mid-2022:

  • with a price increase of 39.01% according to the National Institute of Statistics, wood processing industry is among the top increases for industrial production. The gap between the annual evolution of domestic industrial production prices (+ 60.38%) and those on the foreign market (+ 24.25%) remained significant, and this is the same for wood processing industry. Why are domestic price increases so high? Why is the market so tense?
  • the indices of industrial production for the wood industry and the furniture industry show the sixth consecutive month of decrease, with a cumulative level of production for the period 01.01.2022 -31.01.2022 compared to the period 01.01.2021 -31.01.2021 of 90%, which in in the context of the above-mentioned price increases means a decrease in quantitative production of 45%. A dramatic drop in production.
  • harvested wood resource prices in Romania are at least 50-60% higher than the maximum prices in Europe.

The conclusion is obvious: Romania is in a crisis of resources supply on the wood market.

Lately, there is a lot of information that confirms the effectiveness of measures taken to combat illegal logging. The latest measures, adopted by amending GD 497/2020, respectively the SUMAL 2.0 upgrade with the obligation of those who transport over 20 cubic meters per year to become professional carriers will produce major effects. The estimated number of small carriers registered in SUMAL, on which the measure could have an impact, is 130,000. These are steps forward for a fair firewood market.

Measures to combat illegal logging are good, but the need for wood in the market remains, both for the supply of firewood to the population and for the supply the industry with timber. The insufficiency of legal timber leaves room and creates a market for illegal timber.

Why is the wood harvest so small in Romania?

Currently, approximately 60% of the annual forest growth is harvested in Romania, well below the European average of over 70%. In the opinion of specialists in the sector and in the university environment, this harvest could be sustainably increased from the average of 18-19 million cubic meters per year in recent years, to 25-26 million cubic meters per year.

The National Forest Inventory shows a net accumulation of 133 million cubic meters between the cycles of the Inventory, respectively 133 million cubic meters in a period of 5 years or 26 million cubic meters of net accumulation annually.

The report of the Competition Council on the wood sector market shows that the production of wood, round wood, per hectare of forest, in the Czech Republic, Germany, France and Poland, is two or even three times higher than in Romania. This result is obtained in these countries through an active forest management: execution of forest maintenance works, accessibility of stands, mobilization of wood from the care treatment, harvesting of wood at optimal ages.

In Romania, it is harvested annually under the possibility given by the forest management plans. This is 22 million cubic meters for the forests for which the law obliges the elaboration of forest management plans, according to the Forest Status Report 2019 published by the Ministry of Environment. To this value must be added the possibility of undeveloped forests, with an area of approximately 500,000 ha, established by the Forestry Code at 5 cubic meters/year/ha. Thus, there is an additional possibility of 2.5 million cubic meters of forest vegetation outside the forest fund, in an area of 500,000 ha and another 700,000 ha of isolated trees, from which may result an additional harvest of 2.5 million cubic meters.

The total current, legal possibility of Romania’s forests is at least 25-26 million cubic meters. By harvesting under the possibility, a large untapped reserve was accumulated. If we refer to the publicly owned forests managed by RNP-Romsilva, the possibility given by the forest management plans is 11 million cubic meters, the possibility considering the reserve is 13 million cubic meters, the harvest quota being set arbitrarily at the level of 9.5 million cubic meters.

30% of Romania’s forest fund has a low degree of accessibility, with close removal distances of wood of over 1.2 km. Through the construction of forest roads, the sustainable mobilization of timber in these forests can be significantly increased.

It is also worth noting the low volume of wood harvested through forest maintenance works, especially thinning. The latest figures available from 2019 according to the State of Forests report put the volume harvested from thinning works at 3.9 million cubic meters, a very small volume if we compare it to the area of over 5 million ha of forests in age classes II-IV, ages at which executed these works, with a possible extract volume of at least 6 million cubic meters. It is well-known that the underestimation of the possible volumes to be extracted by thinning works through management plans, in the conditions of the stands inventories, the average volumes/ha, as the National Forest Inventory shows us, are much higher, and implicitly the volumes of extraction by thinning works are bigger.

A special emphasis must be made on the small volume of harvest from the privately owned forest fund of individuals, with areas of less than 30 ha and from the vegetation outside the forest fund. The total of these categories of forests – over 1.5 million ha, of which only 1.2 million cubic meters are legally harvested annually, an average harvest index of less than 1 cubic meter/year/ha, with a direct effect in increasing the deficit of timber fire in the countryside.

Strategic investments in the forest-timber sector can have lasting effects on the economy, society, and the environment

It is very good that measures are being taken to combat illegal logging. They can be even more efficient and targeted in catching thieves and not burdening economic activities with unnecessary administrative tasks.

But the main objective can only be to support the realization of the potential of the forest-timber sector to support socio-economic development.

And this potential is huge, shows a study prepared by INCDS “Marin Dracea” and the Wood Industry Association – Prolemn. The study is entitled The Forest-Timber sector in the context of climate change and its contribution to the development of the socio-economic system and can be downloaded free of charge from the website www.pro-lemn.ro/studiu-incds-prolemn/

Among the conclusions of the study on the impact of the forest-timber sector:

  • Economic and social impact: a contribution to GDP of 3.5%, 16% of Romanian industry, 142,000 jobs.
  • Energy impact: Wood biomass provides 62% of renewable energy produced by Romania.
  • Impact on the effects of climate change: the sector is the equivalent of 50 million tonnes of CO2 stored or avoided, with a market value in carbon certificates of 4 billion Euro.

However, the sector suffers from underfunding, the amounts allocated for the development of the sector from the huge amounts available in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan or the National Strategic Plan are modest.

But the multiplier effect of investment in this sector is unique. A rational and pragmatic approach, with targeted financial support, can have major effects:

  • With 1 billion Euro invested, which could be allocated from the Environment Fund, for a single premium for the inclusion of forested meadows in the forest fund of 2,500 Euro/ha, the surface of the national forest fund could be extended by 400,000 ha.
  • With 1 billion Euro from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan invested in forest accessibility, storage, and sorting infrastructure and in the execution of forest maintenance works, the environmental impact of timber harvesting could be reduced and could be harvested sustainably at the level established by forest management plans, respectively minimum 22 million cubic meters per year.
  • With 1 billion Euro from the renewable energy component of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, invested in increasing by only 25% the energy efficiency for heating the 3.5 million households that heat with wood, the equivalent of 10,000,000 MWh would be released for use in cogeneration MWH biomass, sufficient to save and pass all plants on coal from large cities on biomass, while making available an additional amount of 2 million cubic meters of this resource for use in wood products, according to the principle of cascading the wood resource.

Certainly, the forest-timber sector has an enormous potential to sustainably support Romania’s socio-economic development, as well as efforts to tackle climate change. The sector is an essential component of the new bioeconomy based on renewable resources. Wood is one of these locally available national resources, the importance of which has grown exponentially with the disruption of many global supply flows.