Logging activity reached record numbers last year, as foresters fight bark beetle infestation

Last year saw a record 35.8 million cubic meters of wood mined in the Czech Republic, a year-on-year rise by more than 9 percent, the Czech Statistics Agency announced on Monday. The number of trees being cut down annually has been growing every year since 2013 and is connected to the bark beetle infestation which is ravaging Czech forests.

Conifer trees made up a whopping 96.5 percent of the wood mined in the Czech Republic last year. Of this number, nine out of ten trees were spruce trees, which are the most common type of tree found in the country. Pine and beech trees made up the remaining ten percent.

The most extensive mining took place in East and South Bohemia. Statisticians told the Czech News Agency that while mining activity is on the rise in Bohemia, in Moravia the rate of trees being cut down is falling.

The bark beetle infestation has led the government to approve largescale premature harvesting of infected trees. However, this not only leads to large areas of Czech woodland being cut down, but also causes extensive financial losses due to the market being oversaturated. From 2019 to 2020, the price of firewood from conifer trees fell from CZK 722 per cubic metre to just CZK 423. Although the price has since risen to CZK 451 per cubic metre, it is still far behind normal levels.

As a result, the state-owned company Lesy ČR, which owns nearly a half of all woodland in the Czech Republic, had to ask the government for a CZK 2.3 billion subsidy last year. Meanwhile, private forestry associations called on the government to provide CZK 5.8 billion in subsidies, as compensation for last year’s losses. The money is needed in order to plant new trees in the areas that have been mined.

According to experts from the think-tank Czech forest, premature harvesting and the low purchasing price of bark wood resulted in losses reaching CZK 44 billion last year. They also estimate that 35 to 40 million cubic metres of wood were attacked by the bark beetle in 2020, more than was mined during the whole year.

The bark beetle calamity, which has run wild across the Czech Republic in recent years, is the worst since the eighteenth century, according to Environment Minister Richard Brabec.