Hardwood sawyers gathered on the 23rd of November at sawmill Hanger in Ybbsitz/AT © Association of the Austrian Wood Industry


Hardwood soon to be found in more wood constructions

Article by Fabian Pöschel, translated by Susanne Höfler | 30.11.2018 - 11:50

There were several problematic topics occupying hardwood sawyer's minds that made it on the agenda. On the one hand, for instance, that was marketing and the public perception of the sector; on the other hand, the new Plant Protection Ordinance poses new challenges for the wood-processing industry. 

Wood is not only meant for building

The hardwood sawyers' wish in terms of wood marketing was clear. Karl Polz, spokesperson of the Austrian hardwood sawyers, got right to the heart of it during his words of welcome: a stronger emphasis on timber utilization in the field of living. Georg Binder, manager of proHolz Austria, offered comprehensive insights into campaigns on the domestic timber sector. In his speech, he talked about current main topics in timber marketing.

To him, weather extremes are becoming increasingly relevant. What used to occur sporadically has been accumulating to the extreme this year. Apart from severe impacts on forest stands, mass media on top of that "skillfully" report on a new "forest reorganization". In contrast to the 1980ies, the media predominantly tend to polarize with "black and white thinking": On the one hand, they frame spruce monocultures as bad, on the other hand - since ecologically valuable - beech stands are glorified.

Not only the past proves that this topic must be handled with care. A challenge of our time is the emphasis on sustainable use under the economic utilization of wood. In the hardwood sector, the current trend can have a positive twist: Especially hardwoods have advantages that one would search for in vain in other types of trees, such as the high drought resistance of oak.

The demographic development is shaping the sales market for wood. While in cities, campaigns by proHolz Austria are gaining ground and construction decision makers take increasing interest in wood, Binder thinks that in rural areas, especially the regional origin of the raw material wood offers a possible strategy. What works in favor of hardwood in particular is the high diversity of species and the color design possibilities in the area of living that come with this diversity.

Summing up, participants agreed that there should be measures in Europe to push hardwood utilization in the interior area.

Between oak lace bug and ash twig dieback

In phytosanitary legislation, the Austrian hardwood industry is particularly interested in two factors: the damages caused by the oak lace bug, the associated transport ban in Croatia and the ban on exports for ash roundwood to China caused by ash shoot and twig dieback. Rainer Handl from the Association of the Austrian Wood Industry provided information on the current situation. While the discussion concerning the oak lace bug clearly is in conflict with European regulations, at least from the European commission's point of view, Handl observed that due to the Croation export ban sales markets for oak lumber significantly shifted. He criticizes that the actual problem – the containment of the bug species – has not yet been addressed sufficiently. Since June, the export ban has been exclusively effective to roundwood with bark as well as seeds. Lumber can be transported again within and outside of Croatia independently of the degree of drying. According to Hannes Krehan from the Austrian Research Centre for Forests (BFW), importing Croatian young plants for planting is still allowed.

The dieback of ash tree shoots and twigs also poses challenges to the sector. In the course of the continuously increasing spread, significantly more ash wood was used during the past year. Next to the higher wood volume available to the market, especially Asian countries imposed import bans for ash logs as well as lumber.

New Plant Protection Ordinance

On the 14th of December 2019, the new and modified Plant Protection Ordinance will come into force. Krehan named the most essential changes during his speech: In response to the numerous introductions of new dangerous vermin, even stricter measures – up to temporary import bans – will be applied to imports coming from third countries in the future. The provisions included in the plant protection law concerning comprehensive training and information measures constitute another amendment. This also increases the efforts of timber-processing companies, timber traders as well as tree nurseries which will offer efficient courses throughout Austria in cooperation with Holztechnikum Kuchl (a technical college for the timber industry).

As of now, Polz demands uniform phytosanitary provisions concerning hardwood lumber exports for the whole of EU Europe to stop vermin tourism and keep work within Europe.

Résumé 2018

Handl presented the positive developments until 2018 (production and export figures increased slightly) that can be considered positive for softwood sawyers and hardwood companies alike. Sales are going well and roundwood supply is generally good, with the exception of specific regions. Hardwood sawyers have very differentiated perceptions of the outlooks on international markets. The domestic market, however, is satisfactory and easy to serve.

Currently, oak lumber stocks are full and oak parquet sales lost 5% (plastic floors) despite the large construction volume in Germany. Ukraine keeps placing special offers for oak covering lamellas under questionable compliance with the EUTR. The impact of American customs policies is strongly felt in Asian countries with regards to beech lumber.

Prior to the meeting, sawmill Hanger in Ybbsitz invited participants on a tour. The company has an annual cutting volume of about 8000 sm³ – 90% of which are hardwood – and mainly produces high-grade hardwood as well as cabinet wood from softwood. Two years ago, the sawmill invested in a new log bandsaw.