Government divided over reducing logging volumes in state forests

EKRE-organized protest against government energy policies, Thursday, September 29 2022.
EKRE-organized protest against government energy policies, Thursday, September 29 2022. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Thursday, Environment Minister Madis Kallas presented the government with a proposal to lower state forest logging volumes. Despite the lack of government agreement, Kallas will not back down from the proposal. The government is also looking for a way to compensate the Estonian timber industry.

Following the government meeting on logging volumes, Madis Kallas (SDE) said that negotiations with coalition partners will continue but he does not yet know how they will reach an agreement.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas did not make it clear on Thursday whether she and the Reform Party are for or against reducing logging. "We all have a common interest in making Estonian timber valuable and, at the same time, we do not want more trees to be felled because of it. However, we also live in a world where Russian and Belarusian lumber has limited access to the Estonian market, leaving industries in a difficult situation. Both of these interests must be taken into account," the prime minister said.

Minister of Public Administration Riina Solman made it clear that her party, Isamaa, does not support Kallas' proposal. "We did not reach an agreement on such volumes during our coalition negotiations. The current proposal drastically reduces the volume, so we want to take the time to examine it and to reflect on the matter. Our position is that we should place a higher value on our timber, and if it were exported, other nations should not be gaining green policy points at our expense. Nevertheless, a more sensible solution could be found here," she said.

Madis Kallas said it is the timber industry that is most opposed to reducing felling. "The timber sector is concerned that if they receive less raw material from state forests their lives will be made difficult. Yes, there is some truth to that, but they have fewer orders around this time and the demand for timber has decreased. So we can try to strike a balance here," the environment minister said.

Margus Kohava, a member of the management board of Combimill Sakala OÜ, a lumber producing company, said that reducing the volume of timber cut in state forests would be irresponsible at the moment, given the economic crisis and the impending difficult winter. Due to governmental actions, he added, one of Estonia's most important economic sectors is in difficulty.

Chief Executive in the forest and timber industry, Henrik Välja, said that it is not sensible to add to the challenges in the timber sector by creating uncertainty in the raw materials market. "The timber industry is struggling because Estonian timber is more expensive than that of competitors. We can no longer compete in a market with decreasing prices, and if the supply of raw materials decreases, our prices cannot drop and companies will not become competitive," Välja said.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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