Slovenia should cut timber exports, says official

Ljubljana – Slovenia should reduce the exports of timber, a product without added value, because this is not economical, Danilo Anton Ranc, the head of the wood industry directorate of the Economy Ministry, has told the STA in an interview prior to the first Slovenian Woodworking Day.

Noting that Slovenia is one of the most heavily-forested countries in Europe, Ranc said that the annual harvest ranged between 5 and 6 million cubic metres in recent years depending on various factors, such as bark beetle outbreaks and ice storms.

However, Slovenian companies processed only 1.9 million cubic metres of timber last year, Ranc pointed out, adding that including sectors such as the paper industry and part of the construction and services sectors, this generated some EUR 2.6 billion in revenue.

The goal is to boost such processing activities to process 3 million cubic metres of timber per year and generate some EUR 3 billion in revenue in the wood processing industry alone, said Ranc.

Slovenian timber should be processed in the country, first into semi-finished products and then into products with high value added. The process is expected to create new jobs and decentralise the economy, said Ranc.

Processing centres are one of the mechanisms to realise this vision. In August 2017, the government requested the state forestry company set up at least four such centres outside Ljubljana as a strategic priority.

“Our expectations are very high, but unfortunately things have not been developing in the expected direction,” said Ranc.

Another mechanism is the green procurement system, with the ministry striving to expand the list of buildings which have to include a mandatory share of wood as building material to schools, kindergartens, cultural and sports venues, health institutions and care homes.

The ministry helps the wood industry in various ways, including via public calls, said Ranc, highlighting the role of funds facilitating the green transition.

He pointed out that after the breakup of Yugoslavia, Slovenia’s wood industry suffered enormously. The number of employees in the sector plummeted to 9,000. Since then, the figure has been growing. Between 2010 and 2019, it increased by 14% to 13,100, revenue grew by 35% and value added per employee by 73% to EUR 36,000.

The directorate aims to see these trends continue and also to increase the share of wooden buildings in Slovenia, to at least 15%.

To further promote the sector, the ministry is holding the first Slovenian Woodworking Day this year in cooperation with the SPIRIT investment promotion agency.

The event will be observed online on Wednesday under the slogan Wood – Our Green future, featuring lectures and business meetings between wood-processing companies and architects. The award for this year’s best wooden construction will also be presented.

Ranc would like to see a global day putting the sector in the spotlight, a goal he said was becoming more feasible in the light of the European Green Deal.