Times are hard also for the forest/wood sector, and not only because of the consequences of the COVID pandemic. “Obviously, companies are directly affected by the situation, to a greater or lesser extent depending on the sub-sectors,” notes Philippe Genot, the manager of the Luxembourg Wood Cluster.
“But on top of that, the effects of the climate change are affecting our forests and, consequently, wood production.” Indeed, due to the repetition of very dry summers – and even droughts – there is a strong decline in spruce, which is the main species of production in Luxembourg. This species is victim of attacks by small wood-eating beetles called bark beetles.
Another consequence is the beginning of the decline of another important species: beech. “There is thus an impact on the local resource, with strong price variations for the species mentioned and obviously a significant impact on companies’ value chains.”
This is a time for resilience, because there is obviously no question of giving up. The Nature and Forestry Administration, under the authority of the Minister of the Environment (for public plots) and private owners have the task of ensuring that their forests can adapt to the ongoing climate changes. “They are, of course, important partners of the Wood Cluster,” says Mr Genot.
In parallel, companies, have started their own reflection processes. The Fit 4 Resilience programme, proposed by the Ministry of the Economy and Luxinnovation, is for example one of the tools made available to them. “Through this programme, we encourage and support companies to become more resilient in the future, in order to better face the next crises that may arise.”
Promoting regional value chains
The economic recovery will of course also depend on the capacity for innovation. Luxinnovation and its clusters obviously support companies within the framework of the national Neistart recovery programme, which aims at supporting innovation in a consistent way in the post-COVID phase. “Even though we are dealing with a very traditional material, wood companies have a lot of ideas for making products even more innovative while applying the principles of the circular economy.”
The collateral damage caused by the health crisis has highlighted the increasing importance of local and regional value and supply chains. This is already a focus area of the Luxembourg Wood Cluster. The cluster started to work in this field long before the term COVID-19 had entered into our everyday vocabulary. “We have worked a lot on regional wood value and the development of regional value chains,” confirms Mr Genot. “We are going to increase this work even further, since the timber sector is a perfect example of the use of a regional resource and the creation of regional value.”
In this context, the cluster’s activity has not slowed down, offering more than ever to companies “an important and indispensable platform for working together and exchanging in order to get out of this crisis as well as possible. All together”.
Although no “physical” events are currently organised – and this will be the case at least until the end of this year – the cluster is continuing its original mission of providing individual support for companies, and of defining structuring projects for the sector, with the support of the members its the advisory committee.