In Sivry-Rance, in Hainaut, almost all of the oaks sold this year by the municipality will go… to China.
During the public sale, prices have soared. A situation that surprised the mayor Jean-François Gatelier: “We were very surprised because all the important and most interesting batches of wood were all bought by companies that export to China. The Walloon sawyers present at this sale were never able to give a price because the offers made by these companies were very high, more than 30% compared to the usual price.“
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And this Chinese attraction for Belgian timber is not recent. The Middle Kingdom has been interested in European timber for several years and it has just given a boost to imports: “CThis year, their interest is very significant because China has just decided not to cut any more trees at home. And their government subsidizes Chinese sawmills to buy trees abroad, especially in Europe.“testifies Jean-François Gatelier.
The demand is so strong and the prices so high that we do not know how to compete with it
The sale will certainly bring more money into the coffers of the town but the other side of the coin is less encouraging since it is the local artisans who will lose in the exchange. They cannot compete with Chinese offers and without wood, the activity of Walloon sawmills will be compromised.
A fear felt in particular by Mathieu Moraux, manager of the Saint-Joseph sawmill in Vironval: “Previously, sawmills could distinguish themselves on certain high quality products. There, the demand is so strong and the prices so high that we do not know how to compete with it.“.
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And the situation also worries the Walloon government which fears for the know-how of the region. It is also not uncommon to find in Belgian stores furniture made in China with… Walloon wood.
In total, 8 million euros are planned as part of the recovery plan to support the wire: “We are working both upstream on forests to make them more resilient to climate change and we have, downstream, projects with the Minister of the Economy Willy Borsu to bring these production tools home.“said the Walloon Minister of the Environment Céline Tellier.