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France’s wood sector has welcomed the government’s move to update a strategic contract for the industry to bring it in line with the country’s pandemic recovery plan and boost the sector’s contribution to a low-carbon transition. 

The move to update the strategic contract, known as CSF, was announced by France’s agriculture, housing and industry ministers on Monday (19 April).

“The fact that three ministers have been mobilised is already a very important sign of interest”, said Nicolas Douzain, delegate general of the French National Wood Federation (FNB).

Key among the measures to be taken is the opening of a call for expressions of interest (AMI) for the development of wood products and innovative wood construction systems, Douzain said. This good step is to help develop an industry largely forgotten in recent years, he added.

“The RE2020 [a new environmental regulation for new buildings] will generate demand, and therefore more consumption of building timber,” he added.

National sovereignty

The French wood industry has in recent years been undermined by the import of foreign wood, particularly from Germany, China and the US. France currently imports as much wood as it produces from its own forests. This despite being Europe’s fourth-largest country in terms of forest area.

“If we have been importing more wood from abroad in recent years, it is because industries in our neighbouring countries have already received aid from their governments to bring their industries up to standard,” said Douzain, who is urging the French government to reevaluate the situation.

“What is at stake is national sovereignty. At the moment, factories are running at 120% capacity. We are being given the elements to ensure supply matches demand,” he added.

According to professionals in the sector, the current 8% share of wood for new construction projects should first be increased “to 15-20% by 2030” with the aim that French wood accounts for 70% of that share, the FNB has said.

€200 million for forests

French Agriculture and Food Minister Julien Denormandie also raised the issue of renewing forestry resources and adapting them to climate change.

“With France Relance [the country’s recovery plan], which has a budget of €200 million for forests and wood, we are implementing an ambitious strategy for our forests, based on their renewal and adaptation to climate change,” he said.

Despite being a “colossal” task, Douzain said this process is nevertheless essential. “We must help the forest to be more resilient in the face of rising temperatures and climate change,” he said.

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