Finland looks to feeding India market

Wood from Finland recently organised a webinar featuring industry experts from Finland and India to bring in their perspectives on the opportunities for certified softwood timber from the north European exporting country.

It brought together leading Finnish organisations dealing with certified wood and with a keen interest in exploring the Indian timber market, and was aimed at the way forward to establishing partnerships.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Jukka Holappa, Country Manager for India, Business Finland, pointed to how climate change and sustainability in procuring raw building materials had brought back the focus on wood.

Business Finland, he added, has been laying the foundation in India not only for trade in cetified timber, but also in spreading awareness and sharing expertise in building and furniture manufacturing.

The Managing Director of Finnish Sawmills Association, Mr. Kai Merivuori, gave an introduction to sustainable forestry and timber trade in his country, saying that Finland is the 7th biggest producer of softwood in the world. But is is the 4th-largest exporter of softwood timber, after Russia, Canada and Sweden.

Although most forest ownership in the country is in private hands, all of them follow sustainable harvesting and are certified so by the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), he said.

Finnish sawmills together produce more than 12 million cubic metres of softwood timber (as in 2017) extracted from the country’s boreal and temperate coniferous forests. Most of the sized and treated timber is exported to China, West Asia, Japan and the UK, he said.

Indian perspectives

Mr. Naval Kedia, President of the Federation of All-India Timber Merchants, Saw Millers & Allied Industries, expects a 10% increase in imports of certified wood each year in the 2020-30 decade.

This, he observed, was partly due to the Indian furniture manufacturing industry moving from the unorganised sector to organised factories with high levels of mechanisation and automation.

The head of 70,000 saw millers across the country said his federation was right now focusing on skill development in carpentry, certification in sourcing and seasoning timber, and seeking government and private encouragement to agro-forestry to meet the growing demands of the furniture industry.

India currently imports as much as 2 million cubic metres of hard and softwoods each year, mainly from Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United States – and lately Uruguay. FSC-certified wood from Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Tripura is now coming into the market, Mr Kedia added.

Noting that Finland offered sustainably-harvested wood and assured supplies, he said there was need for better awareness of timber grading and competitive pricing to make a mark in the Indian market.

Mr. Abraar Ahmed, Vice-President and Woodworking Head at Total Environment Building Systems (Bengaluru), noted that there had been a “drastic” increase in certified wood imports into India since 2015.

This was an indication of awareness about sourcing legality and sustainability, he said, adding that his company’s focus was on honouring its commitments to its customers about “green” construction.

Total Environment is a big construction firm in the home and commercial sectors that manufactures its requirements on its own, be it door and windows, kitchens, flooring and facades or static and moveable furniture for its exacting customers.

Manufacturers such as Mr Ahmed seek better workability and structural stability in the wood they use. He said the advantage of certified wood lies in hassle-free transactions, elimination of uncertainties in long-term supply and dependable quality.

Mr Pauli Aaltonen, Sales Director of JPJ-Wood Oy, Mr Heikki Kähkönen, Sales Manager of Metsäntuottajat Oy, and Mr Kari Hiltunen, Program Head for ‘Wood from Finland’, also made presentations during the seminar.

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