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State of Finland's Forests 2012: Finnish forests and
forest management in a nutshell

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Forest industry in Finland

Modern paper and pulp factories operate with integrated approach using industrial by-products (waste liquors and waste wood such as black liquor, bark, sawdust and process waste and recycled wood) for the production of heat and energy. Nowadays it is aimed also to produce biofuels and other products based on wooden fibre. The factories have also established the closed loop water recycling, where waste water used in production is thoroughly cleaned and reused.

 

The industrial use of forests for sawn timber and paper products began in the late 19th century. In 2010, forestry and the forest industry contributed about 5% of the GDP. Relative to its size, Finland is more dependent on forests and the forest industry than any other country in the world. As a consequence, Finland has accumulated an expertise in forestry and industrial manufacturing of forest products that is unique in Europe. For instance, the majority of Europe’s paper industry engineers are trained in Finland, as are a considerable number of harvester drivers proficient in the Nordic CTL harvesting system.

The pressures of internationalisation, a reorientation of production in the pulp and paper industry and an extensive need for new investments triggered an intense process of change in the field of forest industry in the early 1980s. Through acquisitions and mergers, this led to the creation of huge international forest industry corporations, some of them among the largest in the world. The three largest corporations account for more than 90% of all production in the paper and pulp industry between them; two decades ago, the corresponding figure was about 35%.

The worldwide recession and the decline in the demand for paper products in industrialised countries have led to a cut of almost 20% in pulp and paper industry production capacity in Finland since 2008. At the same time, the gross value of the forest industry’s output dropped to about EUR 16 billion.

But whatever the economic situation, the forest sector is a key player in promoting sustainable development in Finland. Indeed, the ongoing structural change in the forest industry focuses not only on improving existing products but also on developing new bioproducts and energy solutions based on forest resources and wood. In the wood product industry, the use of wood in construction in particular is expected to be a significant growth area, since wood is a low-energy, renewable construction material throughout its life cycle while providing long-term carbon sequestration.

Most of the products of the Finnish forest industries are exported. The most important market is the European Union. Exports there account for nearly 70% of the total exports of the sector. The major export countries are Germany, the UK, the USA, France and Spain.

A hundred years ago, forest industry products accounted for no less than 80% of Finland’s total exports of goods; today, the figure is slightly about 20%. Products of the pulp and paper industries account for about three fourths of the exports of all products of the forest industry, while the percentage woodproducts industries is about 25%.

Owing to new technology and advanced production processes, the forest industry’s discharges into water and emissions into air have been considerably reduced in the last 20 years, even though the volume of production has multiplied many times over during the same period. The emphasis on environmental factors has gradually shifted towards product life cycle issues, efficient use of natural resources, recycling and use of renewable energy. For instance, 70% of the paper used in Finland is recycled, which is a considerable achievement even in an international context, considering the low population density of the country: globally, the average recycling percentage for paper is 40% to 45%.

 

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  Updated: 21.03.2012 /MLier |  Photo: Erkki Oksanen, Metla, unless otherwise stated | Copyright Metla | Feedback