The forest-based sector in Romania

Romania’s forests cover 6,559 million hectares and 28% of the country’s land surface. Romanian forests have been well managed over the centuries and are rich in biodiversity and habitat including some of the largest tracts of natural forest still remaining in Europe. Forests in Romania are distributed across mountains (59.7%), hills (33.8%) and plains (6.5%). Approximately 73.5% of forests are broadleaved with the main species being beech and oak. Conifers cover the remaining 26.5% of the land area, with spruce species dominating. 57.3% of Romanian forests are included in the forest protection functional category with the remaining 42.7% of the surface as productive forest. The Romanian Network of Protected Areas (including areas of national importance, nature reserves, parks and Natura 2000 sites) covers approximately 26% of the land area. 

The total growing stock is estimated to amount to 2.221 million m3 which equates to an average growing stock of circa 322 m3/ha. The average annual volume increment is 7.8 m3/ha per year. Removals from forests over the past years have averaged approximately 17.2 million m3 with broadleaved species accounting for 11 million m3 and conifers 6.2 million m3. Removals represent only 46% of the total growing stock volume increment. In 2016, annual allowable cut was at the level of 22.005 million m3

Following the implementation of land restitution legislation in 2017, 64.7% of wooded land area was in the public domain (33.9% owned by the state and the rest by local municipalities), while 35.3% was privately owned. There are an estimated 850,000 forest owners in Romania. Private forest ownership spans both small-scale and large, including individuals, municipalities, and the Church. Restitution also has implications for Natura 2000. The total forest surface within the Natura 2000 sites is 2,099,702 hectares.

Romania has a long tradition in the sustainable and close-to-nature-type management (natural regeneration) of its forest resources. In terms of forestry practice, forest management must be carried out according to national norms and technical parameters regardless of the size or type of ownership. Forest management plans which are valid for a 10-year period, include management provisions for each forest stand. They are prepared by specialized forest management planning companies. Plans are approved by the national forest authority and their implementation in practice is mandatory. 

The National Forest Administration – Romsilva – manages the state forests for production and protection purposes. It manages 22 national and nature parks as well as approximately 1.2 million hectares of non-state forest. The rest of the privately-owned forests or forests belonging to the local authorities (municipalities) are managed by Private Forests Districts (PFDs). Romsilva’s main source of funding derives from earnings it is authorized to retain from its revenue-generating activities – principally timber sales. It also generates revenue from non-timber forest products sales and fees from chalet rentals, hunting, and forest administration contracts. In 2011, 132 PFDs were managing 1.529 million hectares of non-state forest. These entities could play a significant role in the local and regional wood and biomass markets. Currently, they cover approximately 40% of the timber market. 

The harvesting infrastructure is relatively poor and of the 4,800 registered harvesting companies, the main proportion are small with an annual capacity of less than 10,000 m3. There is a lack of investment in new machines and technology in part due to a combination of (a) limited access to finance, (b) lack of continuity of work, and (c) low profit margins. All harvesting companies are licensed by the central authority. The prevailing harvesting method is the motor manual longwood system. Trees are felled by chainsaw and then extracted to the roadside either as entire stems or long lengths, depending on the tree size. Due to the difficult terrain and characteristics of the road infrastructure, pre-bunching in advance of extraction is a frequent occurrence. Skidding is the principal extraction method and is typically by four-wheel drive, using split frame skidders manufactured in Romania. Extraction distances reflect the poor road infrastructure and can be excessive. 

Wood products in Romania include sawn wood, lumber, pulp and paper, panel and veneer, and furniture. The primary wood processing industry, excluding furniture production, has about 7,500 operational companies. This sector is especially attractive for small entrepreneurs, and approximately 92% of all wood processing companies are SMEs. There is a long-standing tradition of producing solid wood furniture in Romania. This is mostly done by local manufacturers, some of which are specialized in producing furniture for foreign markets. The Romanian furniture market is made up of about 4,000 companies of which only 100 are large companies; the rest of the companies are SMEs. Total exports of wood products reached EUR 3 billion in 2016, with over EUR 2 billion being furniture-related products.

When also taking into consideration the indirect effects on the economy, the national forestry and wood processing industries have a share of 3.5% of national GDP. The forestry and timber sectors contribute a total of EUR 1.7 billion to the state budget. Also, the sector directly employs 128,000 people and another 186,000 in related sectors. Among the challenges for economic contribution by the sector, are poor accessibility to forests, with less than 6.4 metres per hectare of forest road density, outdated technology and ineffectual forestry associations.