Josef Vojáček.jpg

Josef Vojáček, director general of Lesy ČR © Ondrej Littera


Back to consistency

Article by Gerd Ebner | 12.04.2019 - 13:50

Which measures will you take in your new capacity as director general of one of Europe's largest State Forest Services?

There are many measures we want to implement. The size and importance of Lesy ČR require me to first optimize the organizational structure. This entails, amongst other things, a business development concept for 2020 to 2024 which we will present around the middle of the year. It will include our management policies entailing risk management as well.

What is your assessment of the pan-European/Czech roundwood market 2019?

I clearly see the Czech roundwood market as a part of the European Single Market. There is no independent Czech market. After years of unimpeded forestry, we are now facing a situation of damaged wood accruals of 90%. Regular softwood and hardwood use are postponed or suspended.

The volume and quality of beetle-infested wood will not change significantly this and next year. It can however be assumed that wood is piling up in the external storages of forest owners as well as processors.

Medium-term it is quite realistic to expect a spruce trunk shortage. It is our aim to act foreseeably on the market. This is why Lesy's timber trade will be part of the business development concept.

Furthermore, we recognize a certain demand from damaged wood-free countries like for instance the Baltic States but also from dynamically developing markets like China.


Up to 1 million sm³ of damaged wood will have to be fumigated in quarantine © Gerd Ebner

The Czech Republic's beetle calamities are unparalleled in European forestry. How high were the damages on Lesy ČR areas in 2018? What do you have to fear for the current year?

I cannot agree with this statement. Due to drought and extreme temperatures, the whole of Central Europe is affected by the bark-beetle calamities – not only Czech Republic. It is a phenomenon that has steadily been worsening since 2014.

2018 saw extreme temperatures during the entire growing period. The bark-beetle developed three full generations and the number of colonies centuplicated within one year. 

In Czech forests, almost 6 million sm³ of beetle-infested wood were harvested in 2018. For the current year, this means at the same time that already during spring swarming a large number of infested trees will be found. The worst-case scenario would be warm weather in the Q2 since this would make timely harvesting of infested trees difficult.

In addition, the situation is aggravated by storm damages that tie up forest technology capacities and provide the bark-beetle with excellent development conditions.

I was introduced to novel methods of conservation in 2018 (EDN/ethanenitrile). Will these methods be developed further?

Tackling this situation is primarily a question of sufficient harvesting options. At the same time, we are preventing the infestation of trees by means of traps, aiming to minimize damages.

The quarantine procedures for infested wood for instance include chemical spraying of tree trunks, debarking or using insecticidal nets. Last year, 20,000 m³ have been fumigated – with positive results. But this method has its limitations. The site of application must be blocked for public access for up to twelve hours. This year, we are again counting on this method. The public contract is to fumigate more than 1 million m³ this year. Forestry authorities have already passed an exception in order to allow for the use of ethanenitrile in 2019.


A higher diversity of tree types is supposed to minimize future risks in forests: Fir is an option © Lesy CR

How will Lesy ČR change forests in the upcoming years to adapt them to climate change?

We identified the first symptoms of climate change in forest stands some 25 years ago. At first, it only affected spruce forests of the same age in northern Moravia. Back then, this was the problem of two forest administrations. Today, the symptoms are visible on more than half of Czech forest areas. We respond to this in various ways. When setting up forests, more types of trees are used. We are raising mixed, diverse stocks in which the share of deciduous trees and firs roughly totals 46%. Every year, we increase this share by another percent. This does not mean that we canceled spruce altogether. I think that spruce will always have its place: Be it in mixed stands, at places where spruce is naturally regenerating or where water supply is sufficient. A shorter felling cycle would be another option.

To me, a "3 by 20 strategy" seems reasonable: At least three trees are represented with 20%, and the others in mixings. Even pioneer tree species like birch and aspen are possible. Breeding interventions will be set carefully to prevent destroying the internal climate. We are trying to optimize the water regime. Clear-cuttings are avoided during regular use, and natural regeneration or underplanting shade-tolerant species are promoted.

Is the practice of selling wood via auction sales still up-to-date? Are there examples in neighboring countries of how wood marketing could possibly be done more effectively?

Stumpage auctions are one of our timber sale models. It is not our main distribution type but it plays a major role in our business strategy. However, we are trying to adapt the form of auctions to market behavior. 

We are carefully watching the marginal price at which we can offer wood to the market. Our National Forests do not rely on one single business model but offer various other models such as auctions of finished assortments, timber sales during complex quinquennial forest orders and direct sales of finished assortments.

When looking at timber sales, it is important to also consider the history of the country in question.

The Czech forestry law has most recently been changed. Are the provisions sufficient to ensure the reforestation of Czech national territories?

It is important that the amendment of the forestry law has entered into force before the bark-beetle season kicks in. A fundamental novelty of this change is the possibility to declare measures deviating from the Ministry of Agriculture in the face of exceptional catastrophes. The change will enable owners to deviate from normal provisions especially with regard to damaged wood cuttings and reforestation. The logging of sterile bark-beetle stocks that do not pose a threat anymore can be postponed to a later point in time.

As for reforestation, the amendment allows owners to extend the legal reforestation term from two to five years and prolong warranted growth from seven to ten years after setup.

I can guarantee: Where there was a forest, a new and more diverse forest will grow back.

In the previous years, we have been collecting tree seeds of all forest tree species. This means that we have sufficient seeding material.

When regenerating forests, we are facing stricter terms than we used to. Instead of 50 million plants per year we will now need way above 100 million. Reforestations will not only take place in spring but also in autumn.

What will change for Czech Republic in 2020 when with Labe Wood, a new million-capacity sawmill will be launched?

It is good news when new processing capacities are set up in the country. We welcome the fact that after a longer period, an investor has been found. We hope that this will intensify competition and boost domestic timber demand.

Does the existing forestry technology suffice to handle these tasks?

This year we are planning on logging around 12 million sm³ instead of the annual long-term volume of maximally 8 million sm³. Since the change of director general, we have taken extensive measures that lead to an accelerated procurement in individual regions. Next to traditional forest orders and auctions of standing timber, we are also running a dynamic procurement service system. Handling also of smaller orders was relocated from the central level to individual regions. This had a positive effect: adequate competition between companies. 15 offers per order are no exception. On average, we see six offers per order.

Furthermore, we have new framework agreements for harvesting technology. There is an ongoing public tender for framework agreements for wood transporting. In general, however, processing capacities in Czech Republic are limited. This is why we are trying to promote our tenders abroad as well.

Thank you for your time!

Lesy České republiky (Lesy ČR)

Forest area: 1.2 million ha
Logging volume: 8 million sm³/yr; up to 10 million sm³ 2019
Growth: 9.7 million sm³/yr
Employees: 3538