The impact of COVID-19 on the European forest industry

ProPopulus Team

The pandemic and, consequently, the lockdown in most of the European Union member countries has led to a slowdown in the forestry industry and in forest management activities across the continent. The outburst of COVID-19 poses a series of challenges for the forestry industry, and for the wood-based products industry, causing great impact on the whole forest value chain, from sustainable forests and plantation management to wood-based manufactured products and byproducts.

Although not in all member states forestry related activities have been subject to direct measures, the entire chain has been affected by national measures such as restrictions in movement applying to people, goods and machinery used in forest management, where it has struck the hardest according to reports from the member organisations of the Confederation of European Forest Owners (CEPF), as quoted in its webpage.

The approach in dealing with the pandemic has been different in the various member countries. In some of them, the forest management activities have been considered as essential and are authorized as long as security and sanitary measures are followed, whilst in others, only critical actions can be carried out, such as prevention of fires and bark beetles, and the supply to basic industries.

One of the main problems the industry is facing is a potential shortage in workforce, especially in those country that rely on foreign workforce, due to the new travel restrictions. All these factors could influence the forest cyclic activities like forest management, planting or harvesting, that will undoubtedly have an impact on the value chain. Many member states are assessing measures to replace the potential lack of foreign workforce with domestic labourers.

According to various sources, sawmills have been struck hard and some forest-based companies are adapting their production chain to produce fibre material for sanitary use.

Nevertheless, Eduardo Márquez, President of the Spanish Federation of Wood Industries (Feim) and of the Association of Manufacturers of Pallets and Wood Products for Maintenance (Faproma), recently said to media that the impact the Covid-19 pandemic will have on the forest value chain “is going to be perfectly surmountable. There will be an impact, but it will not generate insurmountable adversity”.

CEPF, on the other hand sustains that “the EU must see the European forests as a solution and the European wood as the material to support the revival of the European economy. In this view the EU should include forests as part of the green recovery allowing them to play a central role in the realization of the EU Green Deal. The EU should not lose sight of climate change solutions and supporting measures for forest owners, as the management and regeneration will need to continue. Possibility to provide financial support including through CAP and rural development funding to forest owners to contribute to forest management activities will be key”.

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