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Wood production in Europe will shift further to the east in the next decade

Published: 08 October 2004

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations



Countries in Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will play a greater role in European forest products markets over the next two decades, according to a statement by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

This was one of the main conclusions of the European Forestry Sector Outlook Study, presented to the joint session of the FAO European Forestry Commission and UNECE Timber Committee in Geneva this week, to be published by end 2004.

Production and consumption of forest products are expected to increase in Western Europe at about the same rate as in the last decade. However, in Eastern Europe and the CIS, forest products markets will grow very rapidly in the future as these countries continue to liberalise and attract new investment into the sector.

The forestry sector in much of Eastern Europe and the CIS collapsed in the early 1990s, with production and consumption falling by as much as three-quarters in some cases. A number of countries in the region have already rebounded and production and consumption in Eastern Europe is expected to grow two to three times faster than in the west. Recovery in the CIS has taken longer, but this region is expected to show the greatest growth in the future. For example, a presentation by the Russian delegation showed double-digit growth in markets for a number of forest products over the last two years.

“Eastern Europe and the CIS are very competitive because they have significant forest resources and very low labour and raw material costs,” said Adrian Whiteman, an FAO economist.

Future potential

The major challenge for policy makers all over Europe will be to satisfy the increasing demands placed on forests to produce a wider range of goods and services for society. Europe’s forests can meet all of these demands, but the problem is how to pay for them.

“Almost half of Europe’s forest products are recycled and they have many of the characteristics that people say they want in terms of sustainability” said Whiteman. “However, the market does not pay for all of these extra benefits and the forest owner still has to rely mostly on the sale of wood to pay for forest management. Under current market conditions, it is very difficult to meet all of these demands”.

Countries at the meeting discussed a number of strategies to improve the economic viability of forest management, including marketing and promotion of forest products, development of wood energy and greater co-ordination between all of the different interests in the sector. In particular, countries recommended that a greater effort should be made to address policies outside the sector that have a negative impact on forests.

For further information, please contact:

Mr. Christopher Prins

Chief, UNECE/FAO Timber Section

Trade Development and Timber Division

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)

Palais des Nations

CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Phone: +41 (0)22 917 2874

Fax: +41 (0)22 917 0041


Ms. Maria Kruse

Ms. Cheemin Kwon

Forestry Policy and Information Division

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Viale delle Terme di Caracalla

I - 00100 Rome, Italy

Fax: +39 (0) 6 570 52151


Ref: ECE/TIM/04/P04

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Information Unit

Palais des Nations, 

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 44 44

Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 05 05