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Wood offers possibilities in the Barents region
Wood as renewable material offers many opportunities in the future in the Barents region and Northern Europe . It requires methodicalness , product development , and co-operation between different stakeholders. These were among the issues that were concluded at the Barents Forest Forum in Joensuu, 8 th November 2007.
Secured and sustainable supply of raw material with competitive price, availability of energy and labour, well functioning logistics, efficient forest planning and wood procurement utilising new technology, continuous development of the wood value chain and good cooperation, as well as education and research supporting development of the sector are factors that influence investments in the forest sector. These issues were discussed at the Barents Forest Forum ”Preconditions for forest sector investments in the Northern Europe” in Joensuu, 8th November 2007 and following conclusions were made.
Raw material markets have become more and more international, similar to product markets. Location of the investment is receiveing increasing attention, and requires also political support. Good and viable investments are able to get financing, it is more a question of good planning.Bioenergy is becoming a great challenge. From the forest industry point of view, roundwood should be used first for manufacturing products, thus avoiding competition of the raw material between forest industry and energy use, as there is still substantial difference in the value added.
Renewability of wood should be emphasised when promoting use of wood for different purposes. Use of wood in public construction should be increased. Value for the customer could be based in addition to conventional products also or instead on technology or service. Systematic and continuous analysing is needed to evaluate what kinds of products are needed in the market. Availability of energy will have big impacts in the future, which could be an opportunity for the forest sector, and thus new energy products may be more valuable and profitable than current conventional products. State should not build barriers for trade, instead it should secure functioning of basic infrastructure and necessary funding for research.
Cooperation between different stakeholders is necessary for developing forest planning, in particular between end users and those involved in making forest plans allowing production of tailor made forest plans for different users. Creative people are needed, also supportive and creative culture is needed. It is crucial that innovations are implemented in practice. Service and social innovations can improve image of the sector.
Availability of labour could be improved if work is all year round, which could be obtained through entrepreneurship and networkking. In stead of talking, real and concrete change is needed, and improvement of forest sector image cannot be a project, it must be continuous activity.
Barents Region consists of thirteen northernmost regions in Norway , Sweden , Finland , and Northwest Russia (Figure 1). Area is equal to 45% of the area of the European Union, but it is sparsely populated as there are only about 6 million inhabitants in the whole Barents region, less than in Finland as a whole. Forests are one of the most important natural resources in the region, and unique, as forest resources are renewable compared to ore, gas and oil resources of the region.
Altogether 130 participants all over the Northern Europe participated in the Barents Forest Forum, representing business, administration, financing, education, research and development organisations. More information about the forum can be obtained from http://www.metla.fi/tapahtumat/2007/barents/, some details of the Barents forest sector below.
Picture: Barents Euro-Arctic Council http://www.beac.st
Figure 1. Thirteen northernmost regions from Norway , Sweden , Finland and Northwest Russia belong to Barents region.
Forest area in the Barents region is about 90 million ha, growing stock about 8 billion m3, annual increment about 120 million m3 and annual fellings about 50 million m3. Although 80% of the forest area and growing stock is in the Russian part of the region, half of the fellings are done in Sweden and Finland , indicating big differences within the region in the intensity of forest resources utilisation.
Forests and forest industries can foster sustainable development in the region and increase the welfare of its population. Substantial proportion of the population is dependent of the forest sector through employment, forest ownership and lifestyle. Multiple use of forests is important in the region. Also large and important nature conservation areas are located in the region.
Region is producing over 8 million m3 of coniferous sawn timber and over 6 million tons of paper annually plus large quantities of other products. Part of the sawn timber is also raw material for wood house and furniture industry in the region. Region has large producers of sack paper, kraftliner, and art quality wood free papers even in the global scale. Very important for the economy of the region are small and medium size companies of the mechanical wood processing, and also service and technology producers for the industry.
In the Northern Europe consumption of forest industry products is small compared to the production of forest industry. In Russia , however domestic consumption is increasing due to rapidly developing economy. Investments in the Nordic countries have been mainly in existing capacity, while in Northwest Russia also investments in new capacity, in mechanical wood processing have been made. Contrary to the situation in the Nordic countries, raw material base in Northwest Russia would allow increasing capacity; but this would require large investments not only in mills but also in infrastructure, changes in forest management and improvement in the investment climate.
Despite substantial forest resources, location of the Barents region is challenging to forest sector. Most of the forest sector products are exported from the region to European and global markets. Because of the location, region has to have advantages: supply and cost of raw material secured, production costs needs to be competitive, and transportation network good and efficient. Also skillfull labour and entrepreneurs are needed in different parts of the wood value chain.
Continuous measures are needed to improve operational preconditions of forestry and forest industry. Changes and uncertainties in the operational conditions, such as uncertaintly caused by globalisation, increasing competition, availability of labour and raw material, challenges in energy production, impacts of climate and energy policy, increasing interest on products based on renewable raw materials are challenges for the development of the forest sector not only in the Barents region but more generally in the Northern Europe. Wood as renewable, energy efficient and environmentally well performing material is an opportunity. New products and services needs to be developed, but not forgetting traditional wood based products, use of wood in construction and in energy production.
|Updated:||16.01.2008 /REsk||Metla : Events|