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Lumber / timber from forest

Forestry Products Guide

Did you know that many everyday products we depend upon actually originate from forests?

Our woodlands supply the raw materials for everything from the homes we live in, to the books and magazines we read to the food on our tables.

And, of course, they are one of the biggest sources of the air we breathe, taking in harmful carbon dioxide and pumping out clean oxygen.

In this guide, we investigate some of the most common yet often surprising commercial goods derived from forestry sources. We also look at the countries that produce the most forestry products and the forest equipment used to harvest the trees.

You will discover how fundamental forestry products like timber, paper, fuel wood, and plant extracts end up creating produce as diverse as lumber, maple syrup, and aspirin.

We depend far more heavily on our forests than most people know!

Top Forest Products

When you think about woodlands, it will come as no surprise that the top product is lumber (or timber, as we like to call it in the UK).

1. Lumber/Timber—Products like wooden boards, plywood, MDF, OSB, etc. are the main derivatives used for construction, furniture making, flooring, fencing, telephone poles, packaging, etc. In the UK, our forests contain a range of softwood timbers like pine, spruce, and fir, as well as hardwoods like oak, ash, and birch.

2. Pulp & Paper – The following most common produce is when trees are processed into wood pulp, which is then used to make various paper products like writing/printing paper, newspapers (a dying thing these days), cardboard, tissue (toilet paper), packaging materials and so on.

3. Fuel Wood—Trees and timber processing waste are converted to firewood logs, wood pellets, and chips. These are then used for commercial energy production using biomass boilers and heating homes—it is seen as a growing renewable fuel source in the UK. And think about charcoal the next time you fire up the BBQ—it’s from the forest too!

firewood in crates

4. Christmas Trees – We know this one is very seasonal, but many tree farms grow conifers like pines, firs, and spruces specifically to sell as Christmas trees.

5. Food Products—Supermarket shelves are stacked with produce from woodland sources. Nuts, seeds, sugar, syrup, mushrooms, oranges, apples, and lemons (fruits) come from some form of forest.

6. Medicines—Some medicines are made with resins from tree bark, known as balsam. These range from antiseptic creams to aspirin and paracetamol.

Other end products found in many UK gardens include decorative bark chips, garden sheds, and patio furniture.

Top Timber Producing Countries

Sadly, Great Britain is not among the top five timber-producing countries. Countries with much bigger land areas dominate that list.

  1. United States—The U.S. is the largest producer of forestry products globally. Key products include lumber, pulp and paper, and wood-based panels. The US has about 304 million hectares of forest land, with red oak, maple, and white oak most commonly exported.
  2. China—China comes second, producing a variety of wood products like lumber, plywood, veneer, pulp, and paper. Its fast-growing construction industry and expanding manufacturing sector are driving demand for timber and other wood products for domestic use.
  3. Canada—With over 340 million hectares, Canada is a leading producer of softwood lumber from its spruce, fir, and pine trees. Surprisingly, some of Canada’s biggest exports go to the US and China!
  4. Brazil—With its vast rainforests like the Amazon, it is no surprise that Brazil features highly. Teak and Eucalyptus are well-known tree types from the country. However, due to demand, there are concerns about illegal logging and unsustainable forestry practices damaging the forests.
  5. Russia—With about 49% of its land mass classified as forest, Russia is number five on the list. The Siberian forests, home of the Siberian tiger, contain spruce, birch, and pine trees.

Harvesting Woodland

Forestry worker inspecting trees for felling

Now we know what types of products come from forests and where some of the most extensive forests are located, we need to understand how the products get from being a living tree onto the supermarket shelves or into our back garden.

Before a single tree is felled, the first step is planning and site preparation. Forestry workers (or arborists) will survey the woodland to decide which trees to cut. Access roads are prepared by clearing away underbrush using bulldozers.

The next step is tree harvesting using forestry harvesters or fellers attached to skidders (you can read more about different types of forestry machines here). These fast-cutting saws chop down trees efficiently. Chainsaws remain essential for selective harvesting. Tree forwarders or skidders then transport the cut trees to a loading area.

Specially constructed lorry trailers attached to HGV tractor units then take the felled trees to sawmills for further processing.

Depending on the type of tree and the end use, the tree will undergo various processes, such as debarking to create bark-free logs, which are then cut into planks or ground into pulp. When logs are destined for firewood, they are put through firewood processors.

When harvesting woodlands, experienced arborists know it is important to have the right forestry tools for the job.

Buying Forestry Tools

Managing forests and harvesting trees is a costly business. With second-hand forwarders costing upwards of £200k (see our forwarder price guide) and commercial wood chippers for sale costing up to £212k, it’s no wonder those in the forestry industry are looking for financial help.

The UK government are offering the “Tree Production Capital Grant” to help increase the number of trees planted in England. The grant can be used for different equipment and systems to grow and care for new woodlands.

However, it won’t cover specific equipment used in sawmills, in tree transportation, log processing etc. For these forestry tools, speaking with a specialist finance broker is another option.

Evangate FS has been working with those in the industry for 10+ years, securing low rates and flexible finance solutions for all types of equipment, whether used at the felling stage or to produce the end products.

Contact the team for a free finance quote.

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