We write a lot about the battle between environmentalists and forestry. We also write a lot about the machines that operate in the forest. Let´s not forget the eternal battle between forest owners and the forest industry about prices and conditions. But we must not forget that between them in the production chain we have the forest contractors, those who do most of the job felling and bringing the wood to the mills. They do a great job, and they are under pressure.
The forest contractors
The forest owner sells, and the forest industry buys timber. Some forest owners do the felling and the forwarding themselves, but the most common process is that a contractor, a middleman, does the felling and forwarding. Normally this contractor is hired by the forest industry, but it happens that private forest owners hire contractors as well.
Who are the contractors?
Who are they? Those people that put it all on one card by buying expensive machines without knowing how long they will have enough work for the machines to finance them. It must be a special kind of people, and they are.
Of course, some contractors don’t have to risk their livelihood with big loans to finance the machines. Many small contractors settle for older machines meaning they don’t have to carry any big risk.
But the problem often is that the industry, the contractor’s clients, demand that they should have the latest technology in their machine fleets. They simply don’t accept old machines working for them. Some critics say that it’s all about keeping the contractor in dept to make him/her dependent on the client. In worst cases, and that does happen, the client can dictate prices and conditions, and the contractor must accept to survive. Things like “We will lower your payment for felling and forwarding by 5 percent, but on the other hand, you will get 10 percent more work” does still happen too often.
The strength and power to say no
In a previous career, I was selling forestry equipment. I had a customer who told me the story about how he had managed to pay off all his machines and was about to start investing in new ones. His biggest client had found out that the contractor’s profits the last couple of years had been pretty good and let him know that his payment would go down by 10 percent because of that.
The contractor then explained that the profit was going to be invested in new machines, meaning that the profit would soon go down to “normal” levels again. The client then replied that the refreshment of the fleet was good, but the payment would be lowered anyway.
Not many forest contractors have the possibility, or the strength, to say “no” to a client. This contractor did. He told his client to f..k off and sold more than half of his fleet – all machines operating for that client.
Even though I was a salesman, wanting to sell him some new equipment, I really liked what I heard. That kind of courage is rare. Eventually, he found new clients and did buy some new equipment, partly from me.
Without the contractors, nothing comes out of the forest
As self-employed forest owners become rare, the importance of full-time contractors becomes increasingly important. Therefore, they deserve to be mentioned more often.
We do mention contractors here at Forestry.com, but mainly when we write about machines. Like the article about the Stigsson brothers and their John Deere 1470G harvester.
But we also made a report about the extraordinary forest contractor MKP Group, a company with over 100 forest machines in their fleet. And, recently, we wrote about an ordinary logging company, Simnatorps Skogs AB with two machines in the fleet.
We have mentioned many more contractors when writing about their machines. We will keep reminding you of the contractors and the good work they are doing. So, keep an eye here at Forestry.com.