Central European Beetle & Windstorm Timber Disaster Report

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Global markets showing severe impacts from huge European timber salvage program driven by spruce bark beetles and windstorm damage

Between 2017 and 2019, over 270 million m3 of drought-weakened standing timber in Central Europe has been killed by windstorms and spruce bark beetles. While the damage is spread across many countries, the greatest losses are in Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria. Large-scale salvage harvests in these countries are disrupting international softwood log and lumber markets. In Germany, sawlog prices have seen a steady decline since early 2018 from spruce bark beetle and storm wood availabilities – they had dropped by almost 50% by the end of 2019 and close to levels in the U.S. South. Several lumber companies in the region are adding sawmill capacity or building greenfield sawmills to take advantage of the damaged timber harvest and the low cost of sawlogs. This means increased low-cost production from Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria that should be able to access most, if not all, export markets competitively and with positive margins. As demonstrated in 2019, log export markets proved to be an important release valve for excess salvage spruce logs that are surplus to domestic mills in the region, with European softwood log exports to China growing by 475% to over 8 million m3 . Based on the potential harvests of damaged timber and the capacity limits of Central Europe’s sawmill industry to process the damaged logs, increasing log export volumes will impact global log trade flows for years to come.

Topics Covered

  • Central Europe timber situation
    • Current inventory — by country
    • Historical harvest Levels — by country
  • Beetle-killed and wind-damaged volumes
    • By year
    • By country
  • Shelf life of killed/dead logs
    • By country
    • In-market factors
    • Factors that could impact shelf life
  • Sawmill impacts
    • The impact of damaged timber on delivered log prices to mills in Central Europe
    • Capacity expansions
  • Lumber products and markets
    • Discussion on lumber products produced from dead spruce logs
    • Impacts on Europe and key export markets
    • Target export countries that will accept products manufactured from dead timber
  • Log exports
    • Discussion on potential log export volumes
    • Impacts on China’s log markets
  • Outlook
    • Expected volume of damaged timber from storms and beetles
    • Expected duration of increased timber harvests due to salvage efforts in Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria
    • Expected changes in lumber output from Central Europe
    • Expected impacts on export markets
    • Expected impacts on other log- and lumber-supplying countries to key markets such as China and the US

Key Questions Answered

  • Is the epidemic over soon or will it persist?
  • What are the factors that could see it expand further?
  • What is the shelf life of dead European spruce logs?
  • How much higher can European lumber production move?
  • How will lumber markets, such as the US, China, etc., be impacted by increased supply with low costs?
  • How will log markets (e.g., China) be further impacted by the volume of logs?

Report Now Available

A German language version of this report is available

Optional Tour:

Our planned field tour to Central Europe to view the damage forests, logs being packaged for China and timber processed at state-of-the-are sawmills has been postponed until the fall.
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