Latvia introduces emergency measures to stop spread of bark beetle

Latvia has introduced strict emergency measures across the country to try to restrict the spread of the eight-toothed spruce bark beetle.

The bark beetle is currently responsible for an infestation affecting Central European coniferous forests. It has now spread into the Baltic States and further afield.

A state of emergency was declared on 1 April, halting general harvesting in 32 Latvian municipalities. This will remain in place until 30 June – but in some areas may remain until the end of 2023.

Latvia is a key exporter of material to the UK. In the period 2021-2022 Latvia exported over one million m3 of softwood to the UK, second only in volume to Sweden. So the infestation could have short-, medium- and long-term repercussions.

How will this effect timber supply from Latvia?

The sizeable reduction in harvesting will obviously have its effects.

Already, interest has shifted focus onto Redwood harvesting areas – Redwood is more plentiful than Whitewood in Latvian forests. Logically, there could be an increase in Redwood which may or may not be eyed as a replacement.

It is too soon to know whether the emergency measures that Latvia has taken will be successful. So it’s difficult to forecast the longer term effect of this reduction of harvesting. As usual in such a situation, there will be a delay in any effects hitting our marketplace.

Advice from the Latvian sawmill sector is for importers to keep a close eye on inventory levels and not to expect sawmills to be able to provide “just in time” deliveries.

TDUK will keep members updated as the situation develops and any further news becomes available. In the meantime, we advise importers to heed the advice of the Latvian association and to keep in close contact with your suppliers.

Many thanks to the EATTA (East Anglian Timber Trade Association) for providing the information used in this article.