State of play
Why a focus on the woodworking sector in ENP eastern countries?
The growing demand for raw wood material in the EU increases pressure on forest resources in Eastern Europe. Non-sustainable forestry and uncontrolled timber harvesting in the Carpathian region (Ukraine, Moldova) and the Caucausus region (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbadjan) lead to significant losses of forest area and far-reaching impacts e.g. disastrous floods.
The European 'wood gap' pushes raw material exports from forests in ENP countries holding considerable, less developed forest resources with a lower land use pressure than in the EU. The ENP region is an emerging strategic market for raw material supply with many downsides, e.g. illegal logging and timber trade, offshoring of production, cut-throat competition, corruption.
Figure. Forest cover losses, clearcuts, outdated sawmill equipment and wood wastes in Western Ukraine.
Woodworking industries generate the local demand for wood and are part of the problem due to their large, inefficient raw material use. Woodworking SMEs consuming huge amounts of raw material, per employee, and in total. These industries currently emerge anew in post-socialist countries and could have a stronger impact on regional production, employment and value added.
However, SMEs mostly lack proper structures and staff to implement even basic, urgently needed resource efficiency measures. Applicable knowhow and technologies of a sustainable material use and resource supply are largely unknown or not accessible so far. Useable guidance required for the shift is so far lacking, because existing toolkits are too complicated for the outdated equipment still in use in ENP countries.