Import of wood chips and logs to Finland from Russia dropped to zero in 2022

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According to Wood Resource Quarterly, Finland’s wood raw-material imports from Russia fell dramatically in 2022 following many years of active trade between the two countries, and by Q3 2022, imports were down to zero.

Finnish pulpmills and sawmills have long been dependent on imported wood raw-material to meet their wood fibre needs. In 2021, as much as 23% of the pulp sector relied on foreign logs and wood chips, predominantly from neighbouring countries.

From 2018-2021, the total import volume was over 11 million m3 annually, with hardwood logs accounting for about 50% of the volume. However, the stable foreign fibre supply changed swiftly in early 2022.

In 2021, Russia decided to halt softwood log exports starting 1 Jan 2022 to support the domestic forest industry with lower-cost wood raw-material. Hardwood logs and wood chips were exempted from that export ban.

However, when the Russia-Ukraine conflict happened, Finland, like most European countries, boycotted the importation of Russian goods, including forest products. As a result, trade started to dwindle between Russia and Finland in Q2 2022, and shipments were down to zero by Q3.

Wood Resource Quarterly reported that the strong pulp market made the Finnish pulp industry search for alternative supply sources to keep operating rates high, but it has been difficult to find over 10 million m3 of pulp logs and chips with short notice.

Companies have used different strategies to tackle the tight fibre supply, including using more domestic pulpwood, substituting softwood fibre for hardwood fibre, and importing more wood fibre from non-Russian sources.

In Q3 2022, imports were mainly up from Sweden and the Baltic States, but there were also a few shipments of logs and wood chips from Brazil, South Africa, and Uruguay.

In 2022, the total imports will likely be down almost 60% from 2021, as Wood Resource Quarterly expects, with hardwood log supply declining even more with a 70% drop.

In the coming years, it is possible that Finnish pulpmills will increase the share of softwood fibre in their furnish and that more pulp logs will be sourced domestically.

Source: Wood Resource Quarterly