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Four changes for forestry to thrive

 

About the Author

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Simon Lloyd is Chief Executive of the Royal Forestry Society (RFS).  In addressing Principle 4 of the Tree Charter 'A thriving forestry sector that delivers for the UK', he argues that for a thriving and economically healthy forestry sector capable of providing more home grown timber and associated jobs, four things must change

 

His blog can also be found along with other Tree Charter blogs here  https://treecharter.uk/blog/


We all want our woods to thrive, but this will only happen if forest sector businesses across the supply 
chain from landowners to manufacturers are also thriving and able to invest for the future with confidence. Forestry is conservatively estimated to generate £1.9bn of gross value added and employ 40,000 people. It could be much bigger. Currently 60% of England’s broadleaved woodlands are undermanaged, there is 60-100 million tonnes of wood overdue for harvesting and the rate of new woodland planting has fallen to an all-time low. And yet the UK is the third largest importer of timber in the world. This is a missed opportunity.

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Forestry is in a much better place now than it has been for a long time. Timber and wood fuel prices have improved due to growing demand for fire wood and wood chip, and a more competitive exchange rate. More businesses have sprung up or diversified to meet this demand and wood processors have invested to create efficient and competitive capacity. However we face the prospect that the volume of UK-grown timber coming to the market in 10-20 years will decline because we have not been replenishing the stock of productive trees quickly enough and that there will be a shortage of essential skills to manage our woods as too few young people enter the sector.

What should we be doing differently?

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1. Encourage young people to consider a career in forestry as a positive choice. The sector offers a very wide range of professional and vocational job opportunities. It is a sector driven by innovation in technology and multi-disciplinary management practices. The newly launched Forestry Trailblazer apprenticeship scheme opens up new opportunities. The Forestry and Arboriculture Careers Guide managed by the RFS on behalf of the forestry sector is a comprehensive guide to courses, qualifications and career opportunities. Promoting this resource and the exciting career opportunities in forestry more widely and especially to school leavers is vital to refresh the supply of skills in a growing sector with an ageing workforce.

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2. Plant more productive woodland. 95% of UK-grown wood production is conifer and it is conifers which underpin the economic sustainability of most woodlands. Yet we have planted no new conifer woods in England for more than six years, and have persisted in prioritising native broadleaf planting, which is welcome in the right places, but not to the exclusion of conifers if we are serious about maintaining an economically healthy forestry sector. Fortunately the government has listened to the sector and has recently launched new forestry innovation fund which targets support for productive planting.

3. Invest more in the hardwood supply chain. There is clear evidence of market failure in the hardwood supply chain in England which is characterised by underdeveloped and undercapitalised infrastructure. Support from the Countryside Productivity scheme, LEADER, and European Innovation Funds can not only facilitate larger volumes of hardwood to come to market, but also deliver non-market benefits including biodiversity, water management and carbon storage and improve the resilience of woods to disease.

 4. Promote UK-grown timber and the use of timber in construction. The UK imports 80% of its timber requirements, not all of it sourced from sustainably managed forests. The Grown in Britain movement aims to reverse this trend working with retailers to promote UK-grown wood products and raising awareness of the Grown in Britain logo which demonstrates that a product comes from a British forest that has been responsibly managed in accordance with the UK Forestry Standard. More can also be done to promote wood as a sustainable construction material that that can compete very effectively with steel and concrete.

 

The Tree Charter highlights the benefits of a thriving forestry sector. Let’s invest in the forestry skills and infrastructure to make this a certainty and continue to seek a better understanding of the importance of productive forestry in the UK.