The shortage of firewood intensifies, amid soaring prices

Since June, timber prices have jumped 20%, bolstered by a sharp rise in demand and the arrival of new dealers, ready to do anything to get their share of the pie.

Wood prices are soaring, in addition to a growing shortage. Firewood suppliers are unanimous: there won’t be enough logs for everyone this winter. In all, “between 7.5 and 8 million French households are equipped with wood-energy heating (logs and pellets combined)according to a 2019 report by the National Committee for Timber Development. On its website, the Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe) specifies that the government’s ambition is to increase the number of homes heated with wood to 9.5 million by 2023, to reach 11.3 million in 2028.

In recent weeks, Ademe has widely promoted pellet heating, which has been installed by many professionals. But this has led to a sharp increase in the price of wood», Regrets Gérard Fellous, manager of Quality-bûches. Not only “the price of pellets has tripled in the last six months, also driving the price of logs and our loads“, completes the retailer. Since June, the price of raw wood pallets has increased by 20%, forcing Gérard Fellous to apply this increase to his customers: “I’ve seen three price increases since the start of the summer, which are just knock-on pricing from my supplier“.

According to him, “demand has increased tenfold since July» whereas it generally only begins in the fall. “Without advertising, I receive around a hundred calls a day, which I forward directly to voicemail. It never existed, it’s unique», is surprised Gérard Fellous. Same observation for Julian, a supplier of firewood who has “never seen that [sa] life“. He receives about forty calls a day, against only five in normal times. “I hope the winter isn’t going to be harsh, otherwise it’s going to be very complicated“, he worries.

“New entrants who have smelled the goose that lays the golden egg”

Julian thus limits the number of cubic meters per person, up to five for a single delivery. These one cubic meter bales of wood are starting to run out at retailers, and “no one will have enough stocks“warns Gérard Fellous. A similar situation for Patrick Heib, reseller in Moselle: “There is no more stock anywhere, I keep my steres for my loyal customers, hoping to last until the end of winter.“Normally sold between 55 and 57 euros per unit, the cubic meter of wood is today between 60 and 65 euros at this merchant.

In 2020-2021, French demand for wood amounted to 1.8 million tonnes, rising to 2 million tonnes in 2021-2022. A figure that explodes for the winter of 2022-2023 to 2.4 million tonnes of wood, according to estimates by the French Federation of Fuels. A craze that has not gone unnoticed by suppliers. “My producer informed me of the arrival of many new entrants, who smelled the golden goose. At timber auctions, they always buy at the highest price and distort the market. The elders are starting to retireobserves Gérard Fellous, who launched his business in 2003.

Added to this is the modification of the regulations on 1er September, which obliges resellers to provide their customers with more information about their wood: species, length, quantity and humidity level. From September 2023, logs under two meters – and therefore cubic meters – must be dry wood only. The quantity of logs will thus decrease, knowing that it takes on average 18 to 24 months to dry the wood.

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