symbolic picture © Robert Kittel

central europe

Significantly more damaged wood in 2019

Article by Gerd Ebner (translated by Eva Guzely) | 04.02.2020 - 13:14

Germany is the country which was most affected by damaged wood in 2019. Holzkurier’s editorial team estimates that the volume was well above 70 million m³ last year, which means that there was more unplanned logging in German forests than regular logging compared to the previous year.

Record logging in 2019 in Germany

In Germany, a total of 83 to 85 million m³ of log wood (including hardwood logs) were harvested. A good part of the additional quantity was damaged coniferous wood. This would bring the percentage of damaged wood to over 80% of overall harvesting. Eight out of ten cubic meters were not part of regular planned logging. Those additional logs were not ordered by any buyer and therefore had to be sold outside of regular delivery profiles – with all the negative consequences for the log price.

40% more damaged wood in the Czech Republic

34HK_damaged wood Central Europe.jpg

Sources: Destatis, Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (Berlin);  Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism, Vienna,  Austrian Chamber of Agriculture; Czech Republic 2018 uhul.a/ Czech Statistical Office; Federal Statistical Office (Switzerland) © Timber-Online

In relative terms, the Czech Republic was again affected the most in 2019. The volume of wood damaged last year is expected to reach around 33 million m³, which would again be a marked increase compared to previous years (2018: 24 million m³; 2017: 10 million m³).

With about 33 million m³, overall logging thus increased by 30% within just one year. The long-term comparison is even sadder: Until 2014, the ten-year average was always around 14 million m³ a year.

As for 2020 and 2021, there are forecasts from competent sources as to what is going to happen in the Czech Republic. In its strategy paper on the coming years, Lesy CR expects that the volume of damaged wood reaches a peak in 2019, 2020 and 2021. For this year, the Czech state forests expect another 16% of damaged wood which would be 14 million m³ in the forests of Lesy CR alone.

In 2019, around 4 million m³ of Czech logs were exported to Austria. This is according to projections by Holzkurier. In 2015, imports from the Northern neighbor amounted to 100,000 m³ a month. Last year, up to 400,000 m³ a month arrived in Austria.

Austria saw a volume of 10 million m³ of damaged wood in 2019, 5.5 million m³ of which were damaged by bark beetles – a new record. Since regular logging had to be further reduced (-3% to 9 million m³), overall logging should amount to 19 million m³ and should thus be slightly below that of 2018.

As is the case in Germany, there were big differences from region to region. Bark beetle infestation continues to affect mainly the regions north of the Danube. In the Northern Prealps, snowfalls caused damaged wood in 2019. The South, on the other hand, was busy dealing with the damages caused by Vaia, until heavy rainfalls and snowfalls hit the region in November.

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Source: Destatis 1998-2018; Holzkurier estimate for 2019 © Timber-Online

3 million m³ of softwood logs from Germany to China

When analyzing damaged wood in 2019, the flow of softwood logs from Germany to China has to be mentioned as well. Holzkurier estimates that it reached around 3 million m³ which corresponds to a tenfold increase year on year.

Month after month, on average 250,000 m³ of softwood logs were exported to China. In October alone, exports amounted to almost 500,000 m³. In November, strict controls by the German traffic police resulted in a marked decrease of export volumes (about 260,000 m³). Nonetheless, Germany exported twice as much to China as it did to its traditional number one customer Austria.

Logistical feat

All of this needs to be seen in the context of complex logistics. The softwood logs have to be sold to China, cut to size to fit in the containers, then loaded into the containers, treated with gas, brought to a port and finally the logs have to be shipped to China. This is a logistical feat of German forest owners and log merchants.

DAMAGED WOOD IN CENTRAL EUROPE AND ITALY | 2017/2018/2019 (in 1,000 m³)
Country 2017 dama-ged wood 2018 2019* Notes
Bark beetle wind-throw Dama-ged wood Logging Bark beetle Wind-throw Dama-ged wood Log-ging
Germany 10,650 11,300 18,500 31,900 64,400 71,600 1,500 73,100 85,500 storm Eberhart 11 March 2019; logging 85 million m³: Holzkurier projection based on data by ministries for 1-10/2019
Czech Republic 10,000 23,000 1,000 24,000 25,690 28,000 2,000 30,000 33,000 phone calls with experts; windthrow 2019 Mortimer; bark beetle damages and logging: Holzkurier estimate
Austria 6,500 5,100 4,900 10,000 19,200 5,500 4,500 10,000 19,000 figures: forecast by Austrian Chamber of Agriculture 12/19; data on windthrow and snow damages (particularly high in 2019) are collected together
Slovakia n/s 3,800 200 4,000 10,340 4,000   4,000 11,000 Bark beetle damages: Holzkurier estimate;  increase in logging parallel to neighboring countries (+10%)
Switzerland 370 400 1,500 1,900 5,200 1,000   1,000 5,300 Holzkurier estimate: two to three times more than in 2018, Zürcher Unterland and Weinland mainly affected
Italy n/s n/s 8,600 8,600 13,000 n/s     13,000 Removal of trees damaged by Vaia
Total 27,520 43,600 34,700 80,400 137,830 110,000 8,000 118,100 166,300  

Euroblock Forum

Analysis of damaged wood so far and outlook

On 30 and 31st January, the Euroblock Forum took place in Freising/DE for the 17th time. 200 participants from the European packaging industry attended the event. Gerd Ebner, Holzkurier’s editor-in-chief, presented an analysis of the current damaged wood situation in Central Europe.