Firewood suppliers say they face unprecedented demand for fuel, with the market boosted by growing fears of winter fuel shortages among families and retirees.
ith soaring oil, gas, electricity and coal prices, thousands of Irish households have turned to firewood as a guaranteed source of heating.
But rising demand has led some retailers to impose quotas on pallets of cut hardwood logs ready to be fired, with prices for firewood delivered to some urban areas rising by more than 50%.
Firewood processors are struggling to cope with unprecedented demand and some have even had to close their order books.
In 2018, Irish households used around 243,000 cubic meters of firewood.
However, this could reach 450,000 cubic meters this winter.
One firewood supplier, Padraig Egan of Ax Forestry, said the demand was driven by one factor: fear.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “We cannot keep our storage sheds full. We have never faced such a demand before. It’s just amazing.
The Roscommon-based company would normally start processing its harvested timber – purchased two years previously – from the end of August.
By mid-September, all of its storage sheds would be filled with processed firewood.
“People are really scared – it’s all driven by fear,” Mr Egan said.
However, firewood processors are also affected by the inflationary cycle.
Mr Egan explained that their firewood processing machines, sourced from Scotland, can run on electricity or via a horse-drawn tractor.
“If we weren’t able to use the old tractor to run the machinery, I don’t know what kind of cost increase we would get. »
Raw material costs have also skyrocketed.
“A big trailer of hardwood logs ready for processing would have cost us €1,700 last year. The same trailer load today would cost €2,700 – that’s how prices have skyrocketed.
Woodfuel is operated by John and Pamela Flood in Meath and they supply the Leinster market with top quality processed firewood.
The company, which employs five people, is also the largest supplier of high-quality kiln-dried wood for wood-fired pizzerias.
“The current market is unprecedented, absolutely unique,” Mr. Flood said.
Woodfuel’s order book 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 of their timber comes from Latvia and Lithuania, but as that market has come under severe pressure, Finland, Norway and other countries that previously used Russian and Belarusian timber have been forced by sanctions to find other suppliers.
Between 2021 and 2022, Woodfuel has experienced an increase of more than 35% in raw material costs and that is before additional processing and delivery costs are factored in due to rising electricity prices. , gas and diesel.
Firewood prices are higher in the Dublin area due to delivery costs, with prices being cheapest in rural areas adjacent to forest areas.
The demand for premium hardwood is such that it now sells for nearly double the price of softwood of Irish origin.
A cubic meter of kiln-dried beech logs now costs €289 collected, with between €40 and €50 charged for delivery.
However, demand for this firewood is such that some retailers, including Stakelum’s in Tipperary, have imposed an order limit of one case per customer.
A giant bag of softwood now sells for €70, €30 more than just three years ago.
Winter fuel concerns have been heightened by the government issuing a ban on so-called ‘smoked’ or bituminous coal, due to come into force on October 31.
A 40kg bag of premium coal sold for €28 last winter but fears are growing that prices will soar to between €50 and €55 a bag due to the war in Ukraine.
Charcoal traders have warned that, in the worst-case scenario, prices per bag could even reach €60 for the remaining supplies in the country.
Premium charcoal sold last winter at around €28 per 40 kg bag. Last February, prices increased by €4.50, then by an additional €2.50 on April 4. A 40 kg bag now sells for around €34.