“I’ve never seen anything like it” – firewood dealers refuse orders for fear of lack of fuel

Fuelwood suppliers say they are dealing with unprecedented demand for fuel, with the market fueled by growing fears of winter fuel shortages among families and retirees.

With oil, gas, electricity and coal prices soaring, thousands of Irish households have turned to firewood as a guaranteed source of heating.

But the surge in demand has led some retailers to impose quotas on pallets of oven-cut hardwood logs, with delivered firewood prices rising more than 50 percent in some urban areas.

Fuelwood processors are struggling with unprecedented demand and some have even had to close their order books.

In 2018, Irish households used an estimated 243,000 cubic meters of firewood.

However, this could increase to a whopping 450,000 cubic meters this winter.

One firewood supplier, Ax Forestry’s Padraig Egan, said demand is being driven by one factor – fear.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “We can’t keep our storage sheds full. We have never dealt with such a demand before. It’s just amazing.”

The Roscommon-based company would typically begin processing its harvested timber, sourced two years earlier, by the end of August.

By mid-September all storage sheds would be filled with processed firewood.

“People are really afraid – the whole thing is driven by fear,” says Mr Egan.

But firewood processors are also hit by the wave of inflation.

Mr Egan explained that their firewood processing machinery, originally from Scotland, can be powered by electricity or via a harnessed tractor.

“If we couldn’t operate the machines with the old tractor, I don’t know what cost increases we would have to expect.”

Raw material costs have also skyrocketed.

“A large trailer load of workable hardwood logs would have cost us €1,700 last year. The same towing capacity would cost €2,700 today – so prices have skyrocketed.”

Woodfuel is run by John and Pamela Flood in Meath and supply the Leinster market with quality finished firewood.

The company, which employs five people, is also the largest supplier of high-quality kiln-dried lumber for wood-fired pizza restaurants.

“The market right now is unprecedented, absolutely unique,” Flood said.

The order book for firewood is already full for the winter. They have stopped all advertising and are trying to focus on serving their existing customers.

Mr Flood said most timber is sourced from Latvia and Lithuania, but that market has come under severe pressure as sanctions have forced Finland, Norway and other countries that previously used Russian and Belarusian timber to find alternative suppliers .

Between 2021 and 2022, woodfuel has seen raw material costs increase by more than 35 percent, before factoring in additional handling and delivery fees due to higher electricity, gas and diesel prices.

Firewood prices are higher in Greater Dublin due to delivery costs, with prices being cheapest in rural areas alongside woodland areas.

Such is the demand for premium hardwood that it is now retailing at almost twice the price of Irish softwood.

A cubic meter of oven-dried beech logs now costs 289 euros when picked up, and between 40 and 50 euros are charged for delivery.

Such is the demand for such firewood, however, that some retailers, including Stakelum’s in Tipperary, have set an order limit of one case per customer.

A jumbo bag made of softwood now costs 70 euros, around 30 euros more than three years ago.

Winter fuel concerns were compounded as the government proceeded with a ban on so-called “smoky,” or bituminous, coal, expected to come into effect on October 31.

A 40kg sack of premium charcoal sold for €28 last winter, but fears are mounting that prices will rise to €50-55 per sack due to the war in Ukraine.

Coal traders warned that worst-case prices could reach as much as €60 per sack for remaining stocks in the country.

Premium coal sold for around €28 per 40kg sack last winter. Prices rose by €4.50 last February and by another €2.50 on April 4th. A 40kg sack now retails at around €34.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/ive-never-seen-anything-like-it-firewood-dealers-refuse-orders-as-fear-of-running-out-of-fuel-sparks-shortage-42031501.html “I’ve never seen anything like it” – firewood dealers refuse orders for fear of lack of fuel

Fry Electronics Team

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