Between explosion in demand, rising prices and the arrival in force of foreign buyers, professionals in the sector fear for their future.
It was a month ago in Bordeaux. During a sale organized by the National Forestry Office (ONF), a Lithuanian buyer of UAB Forestus, hired by a Chinese industrialist, came close to winning the jackpot: a large shipment of maritime pine.
One more alert for wood professionals, which says a lot about the state of the market. Like oak, a third of which is already destined for export to China, coniferous trees could follow the same path. Maritime pine, typical of the Landes, is increasingly in demand abroad.
In question, the decision of Russia to prohibit or overtax the exit of unprocessed timber from its territory from January 1, 2022.
Result: its trading partners, such as China, must obtain supplies elsewhere, while France is preparing to become the second largest exporter in the world. “China anticipates the fact that Russia will close its doors, and as Europe does not protect its industrialists, the Chinese are coming in droves to loot all they can, deplores Nicolas Douzain-Didier, general delegate of the National Federation of Wood (FNB).
States are organizing themselves to go and take the raw material of others. It’s no longer industry, it’s geopolitics.
A situation which prompted the FNB to launch a petition at the beginning of June, now signed by 11,000 people from all over Europe. Because its general delegate assures it: “There is a real danger to all conifers on a continent-wide scale. Everyone is worried, it’s a problem of general interest that impacts sawyers, their customers and the rest of the chain. ”
A just-in-time market
However, the secretary general of the forestry workers union in the southwest is reassuring. “There are no new flows to Asia, says Eric Dumontet. That there is a particular interest in this massif and a beautiful species such as maritime pine, I can understand. But are we going to start selling to the Chinese because they are going to offer us one more euro per cubic meter? I do not believe it. »
“There are limits to the greed, continues Nathalie Lasserre, director of Ribeyre establishments in Linxe, in the Landes. Already there are not very many in the industry … Those who do this will pay for it one day. They see what goes into the portfolio in the short term, but at this rate we’re going to run out of wood and end up shutting down the shop. «
This threat from foreign buyers is disrupting an already overheating industry. The post-Covid economic recovery, and the reorientation of suppliers such as Germany and Austria towards the American market, are contributing to an explosion in demand for French wood.
Mechanically, the already high prices of raw materials are increasing, and not everyone has the means to align themselves.
“Right now there are very few sales. We are lucky to have stock, but for large consumers, it is very tight « , supports Nathalie Lasserre.
Today, I do not know an industrialist who loses markets for lack of supply of maritime pine.
So, what future for the sector? “Maritime pine must be processed locally, certified and used as close as possible to the resource, estimates the secretary general of the union of forestry workers in the southwest. We want to continue selling to local manufacturers as part of a circular economy. ”
In Aquitaine, the most forested region in France in which 95% of farms are private, “We must push contractualization to its maximum between owners and manufacturers”, concludes Nicolas Douzain-Didier.
The wood industry represents 440,000 jobs in the country.