By Daria Minina
Last year was rather complex for the forest industry; the weather and market situation tested its strength but neither storms nor fire could hamper its profitability. The industry generated three times more revenue than in 2009, while profitability rose by almost a half (to reach 18 percent).
On average, each forestry in the country exported $1.1m of products last year, with revenue from selling timber up 1.8 times on 2009. According to the Forestry Ministry, Belarusian timber and wood products enjoyed greatest popularity in Poland, Germany and Lithuania, with sales to another 19 CIS and non-CIS states; about 2m cubic metres were sold. The range of products in demand may soon change abroad, with seeds, planting stock and frozen berries likely to enjoy popularity.
However, the Forestry Ministry advises forestries not to focus on such timber exports but to develop tourism, inviting foreigners for forest hiking and eco-themed trips. Last year, our hunting companies achieved self-sufficiency of funds for the first time, even making enough money to pay into the public purse.
The Forestry Minister, Mikhail Amelyanovich, explains that demand for wood is growing globally, so Belarusian forestries are increasing their stock volumes. In the coming five years, the Ministry plans to substitute ‘traditional’ manual labour with machinery, buying 1,400 various units of multi-operational machinery. By late 2015, at least 70 percent of all domestic felling will be mechanised.
Meanwhile, forests need protection. The UN has declared 2011 to be the International Year of Forests. According to the Forestry Ministry, last year, the death of trees rose by almost 60 percent, to total over 11,000 hectares. The reasons were unfavourable weather conditions, primarily storms, which crippled at least 10,000 hectares — 2.5 times more than in 2009.
“By 2015, our newly operational wood processing plants and pulp and paper mill will be able to process more timber, giving us a shortfall of over a million cubic metres,” says Mr. Amelyanovich. He believes this is no great problem though as, in the past decade, over 10m cubic metres of woodland has been underused and could be used to replenish stocks. In five years’ time, stocks will grow by another million cubic metres and, by 2020, the situation will stabilise. New factories will certainly have enough raw materials.