© Martina Nöstler

timber industry association austria

Increases everywhere

Article by Gerd Ebner (translated by Eva Guzely) | 07.06.2019 - 10:11

Austria’s sawn timber industry was able to top these figures: In 2018, production value grew by 8% to 2.4 billion €. And that’s not all. “Sawn timber production is at its highest level since 2008 and climbed above the 10 million m³ mark for the first time in many years”, says Herbert Jöbstl, President of the Austrian sawn timber industry, with joy. “We have been seeing a very positive development for two years already. Worldwide sales are satisfactory and there is sufficient raw material.”

Damaged wood dominates everything

Jöbstl explicitly mentioned the fact that the industry bought an additional 2 million m³ (+20%) of domestic wood in the years from 2016 to 2019. “We help the forest owners who struggle with damages. However, it doesn’t make sense to cart beetle-damaged wood from Northern Austria to Tyrol”, he says with regard to problems linked to the regional accumulation of damaged wood. “The logistical challenge of such vast damages has not yet been mastered”, he admits.

While the regular use of wood fell by 17% last year according to the association’s calculations, that of damaged wood rose by 53%. “For the first time, there have been more damaged than fresh logs in Austria”, regrets Jöbstl.

As to sales, the “healthy growth of production by just a few percent” matches the situation on markets. Last year’s exports grew by an above-average 9%. “Unfortunately, Italy’s performance is weak. There are no signs of any real potential for growth on this market“, analyzed Jöbstl Austria’s most important market with its export share of 44%. In 2018, Germany bought more than 1 million m³ for the first time.

Last year, Austria exported an overall 5.9 million m³ of softwood sawn timber. Jöbstl did not exclude the possibility of passing the 6 million m³ mark this year – for the first time in many years. According to the Datacube, the last time this happened was in 2010 with an export of 6.2 million m³. “The random introduction of trade barriers can have a dampening effect on world trade, though”, adds Jöbstl.

Stable demand in construction, no clarity yet on packaging demand

While housing starts and construction permits give reason to expect good sales for Europe’s construction industry in 2019 and 2020 as well, the packaging sector might be in trouble. “This sector is directly affected, should the economy slow down”, Jöbstl underlines.

In the first quarter cutting reached a high level thanks to the mild winter. Jöbstl didn’t dare to predict whether the industry will be able to maintain this increase of 4 to 5% for the rest of the year.

“The construction industry is booming. And even if growth slows down in the general construction sector, timber constructions continue to gain market shares”, says Wiesner with pride. “Thanks to cross-laminated timber, the percentage of wood used in buildings is steadily increasing.” Already, 60% of worldwide production is located in Austria. And many more production sites are going to follow.

Full construction order books in 2019/2020

“The timber industry will be at full capacity in 2019 as well. Our order books are full. This gives reason to expect an equally positive development in 2020”, predicts Wiesner.

Wiesner was also proud that Univ.-Prof. Gerhard Schickhofer won the renowned Wallenberg-Preis, calling it the “Nobel Prize” of the timber industry. According to Wiesner, the professional association played a central part in establishing timber construction professorships.

Timber construction products have all seen an increase last year: windows were up by 5%, glue-laminated elements by 7% and doors by 4%.

Last but not least, it was Dr. Erlfried Taurer’s turn as spokesman of the Austrian panel industry. He too reported nothing but positive figures: “The furniture industry was able to raise its production by 5% to almost 2.1 billion €. The shop furniture segment’s performance was extraordinary with exports growing by 22%.”

According to Taurer, the panel industry has been producing “365/24/7” for years. “For this reason, it was not possible to further increase output. We are on a constant high level.”