Warm winter impeding logging work

Logging work underway in Vasknarva, Ida-Viru Countty.
Logging work underway in Vasknarva, Ida-Viru Countty. Source: ERR

While loggers typically begin harvesting wood in November, this year's winter, which has been unseasonably warm and snowless, hasn't allowed loggers to begin work at all yet. The State Forest Management Centre (RMK) nonetheless hopes to still fulfill all of its contractual obligations, although the shortage of wood may lead to an increase in firewood prices.

"If there was any hope and the weather forecast indicated that it will get cold even just at the end of January, then perhaps we could get something done in a few months, but this is a hopeless sort of feeling that nobody is promising this," said Taavi Ehrpais, a forester in Rapla County and Vardi forest association board chairman. "The worst scenario would be if there were no below-freezing temperatures in February either."

Ehrpais is a logger who has not been able to start harvesting timber yet this winter. He added that as current purchase prices for wood don't support logging this year, he reduced planned logging capacities, but in current mild weather conditions, even the hoped for logging of 30,000 cubic meters is too much of a challenge.

"What's concerning is the fact that if things start going very badly for the logging industry, then things can't go well for forest owners either," he said. "The worst-case scenario would be if a number of sawmills closed their doors; then there's no hope that prices will be better and the situation improved on the timber market. It's not good for anyone; the sector will certainly have a very difficult year ahead."

Ehrpais said that while he is typically able to harvest half of the year's total in the first quarter, as he can no longer hope for a cold winter, more and more work will be left for summer instead.

The RMK plans to harvest up to 3.9 million cubic meters of timber, and as confirmed by RMK Forest Management Department director Olavi Andres, the state-owned company will fulfill all of its contractual obligations.

"Over the years, we have invested a great deal in our forest roads, thanks to which we have a clear advantage over other loggers," Andres said. "But this winter will certainly leave some sort of mark. Just a few years ago it was entirely typical for it to get cold in November already, and then you could easily begin logging without worrying whether you could log a forest or not based on the ground there."

"We are still relatively early into the year, and logging work is underway," the RMK official said. "We have taken these unexpected factors into account, and changed our logging plans somewhat. What is certain is that we will definitely fulfill our obligations to our clients. Our prices will be influenced first and foremost by what is going on on the global market. Regarding firewood, these warm winters, during which logging is more difficult, may increase firewood prices somewhat."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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