Firewood in demand but it's a tough business to get right
Published 06/09/2011 | 05:00
If you have already received approval for a thinning or tending grant for broadleaves, do not let it lie unused. The Forest Service's attitude to funding these days seems to be to use it or lose it, and future agricultural budgets will be tighter than ever.
There is a good demand for timber at present, especially for hardwood thinnings, with the many new entrants to the firewood business competing for whatever is available. Oddly, a number of longer established firewood producers are cutting back on their activity but that is a story for another day.
The combination of an outlet for broadleaf thinnings, plus a grant which will partially cover the costs of doing the job, means that it would be foolish to delay if your trees have reached the appropriate stage. But do guard against theft, given the occasional reports of timber stacked at roadside being removed at night. Make sure you have a securely locked gate to deter thieves and preferably have the stack out of sight from the public road.
It must be two years since I first suggested caution before committing to purchasing expensive firewood processors and other timber handling equipment without carefully assessing the full costs associated with retailing firewood.
Only a decade ago, there was virtually no market in wood fuel, except for a few small local operators and some of those were selling trailer loads of wet timber which the purchaser had to store and dry before use.
This has all changed and the thousands of homeowners who have purchased wood burning stoves now demand dry, clean logs, well presented and delivered to their homes in relatively small amounts.
The large number of new entrants to the firewood business means the purchaser can shop around and many enterprising merchants are importing dry logs direct from Eastern Europe, which is putting further pressure on the retail price.