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INTERFORST backed by multi-billion EUR industry sector

Organised once every four years in Munich, Germany by Messe München GmbH, the forest industry event INTERFORST 2018 is backed, at least indirectly, by an industry sector with considerable economic clout. According to the Federation of German Forest Owners Associations (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Deutscher Waldbesitzer – AGDW) and the German Forestry Council (Deutscher Forstwirtschaftsrat – DFWR) close to 128 000 companies with over 1.1 employees generate annual sales of around EUR 180 billion.

According to AGDW and DFWR, there are more people are working in the German forestry and wood processing value chain than for example in the mechanical engineering and plant manufacturing sectors or in the automotive industry. The forestry and wood cluster includes the following economic sectors: the forestry sector, the woodworking industry, the wood processing industry, wood processing in the building industry, the paper industry, the publishing and printing sector as well as the timber business.

Great significance for rural areas

Even though the forestry sector, with shares of two percent in sales and eight percent in the number of employees, only plays a subordinate role, it forms the basis of the wood processing chain and its economic output due to sustainable forest management.

Particularly in rural areas, many workplaces depend directly or indirectly on the forest sector and the forest-based industries. They have a great economic importance here. Thus, this economic sector provides an income of approximately two million forest owners. Many companies from the forest-based industries have their location entirely or partially in rural areas, commented Georg Schirmbeck, President of the DFWR.

Globalization has brought about an enormous boom for the forestry sector and the forest-based industries in the last few years, not least on account of efforts to decrease the use of fossil resources.

In this context, our forest owners, who are cultivating their forests in a sustainable and forward-looking manner, supply wood as a climate-neutral raw material. The used wood removes carbon from the atmosphere and binds it in wood products. In addition, it replaces energy-intensive substances, such as concrete, steel or oil, Schirmbeck remarked.

48 percent privately owned

One-third of Germany, 11.4 million hectares (ha) in total, is covered by forests. The basis for the high benefit of the forestry and wood industry cluster are sustainably cultivated forests. According to information provided by the Federal Statistical Office, there were a total of 29 408 forestry operations carried out in 2016, cultivating a forest area, including short rotational plantations, of just over 7.15 million ha.

Almost half of Germany’s forests are privately owned. INTERFORST functions as a “launch pad” for new products, technologies and innovations from around the world such as Finland-headed tractor manufacturer Valtra.

Almost half of the forest, 48 percent, belongs to private forest owners. However, fifty percent of the private forest account for what is referred to as private micro forests – forests smaller than 20 ha in size. To be able to ensure sustainable forest management in spite of this unfavourable ownership structure, approximately 430 000 forest owners have organized themselves in some 3 600 forestry cooperatives.

Timber reserves increasing steadily

Another 19 percent of the German forest area owned by municipalities and corporations. The rest of the forest area is state-forest owned by the federal states (29 percent) and the federal government (4 percent). The annual forest increment is approximately 122 million m3 of wood whereas the annual harvest volume is around 76 million m3, sometimes slightly more, sometimes less, but always below the forest growth rate.

As a result, the timber reserves in the forest are steadily increasing. Therefore, most of the German need for wood can be covered from its own forestry sector; however, Germany has been a net importer of softwood since 2009.

At the same time, Germany remains the largest exporter, predominantly to other EU countries of wood and wood-based products, preceded by China and the United States according to the 2017 Forest Report of the Federal Government Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).

Revenues from roundwood dominate

The main source of revenues from German forest operations is roundwood and its share in the value of the products originating from forestry is over 90 percent. In 2016, 52 million m3 under bark was harvested of which 9.4 million m3 was used for energy, up slightly above one million m3 more than in 2006 according to BMEL.

A dedicated woodchipper tractor from Albach.

Even if the focus is shifting for several forest owners, especially for those from urban areas who consider nature conservation as a primary objective rather than the generation of revenues from the forest, the revenues generated from the sale of roundwood remains decisive.

Societal services

Secondary forest products, ancillary uses and services, such as hunting and fishing, Christmas trees and ornamental wreath or revenues from the leasing of real estate merely contribute a small share to value creation – worth approximately EUR 70 million annually, according to the 2017 Forest Report of the Federal Government. Protective and social services are largely not or only to a very small extent remunerated.

In addition, there is a range other services rendered to society, the positive effects of which are often—sometimes out of ignorance—taken for granted, such as for example the construction, maintenance and safeguarding of the forest road network, local recreation facilities or measures for the conservation of water protection functions. Revenues from woodland burial grounds and wind energy plants are still relatively new in the portfolio, just like compensation measures, e.g. for building or traffic surfaces.

The forest workplace

Private forest businesses, as well as municipal and state-owned state forestry enterprises, are employers for many other specialists and suppliers. There are more than 3 000 forestry enterprises in Germany; their employees’ plant trees for forest owners, care for forest resources and finally harvest the wood, move it out of the forest and ensure its transportation to an industry.

Tree-length haulage trailers on display at INTERFORST 2014.

Despite all mechanization and digitization, forestry work still is one of the most dangerous and accident-prone activities of all. Safety at work and occupation-specific health risks will play an important role at INTERFORST 2018, too.

In addition, leading organizations and associations of the forestry and wood cluster will present the latest figures and topical research results and will discuss the most important topics from the spheres of politics and business. The complete range of German and international forest sectors and forest-based industries will present itself in Munich, Germany in July.

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