Forestry accounts for 1.5% of Latvian GDP and 17,400 jobs

Latvia may be a relatively small country compared to some others in the European Union, but when it comes to forestry it is one of the big hitters, according to Eurostat data published December 19.

In 2021, the EU had an estimated 160 million hectares of forests (excluding other wooded land); in relative terms, this means that forests covered 39 % of the EU land area. This represents an increase of about 8 million hectares or 5.3 % since 2000 and 2.5 million hectares or 1.6 % since 2010.

Forests cover more than half of the national terrestrial territory in five Member States: Finland (66 %), Sweden (63 %), Slovenia (58 %), Estonia (54 %) and Latvia (53 %).

In absolute terms, the countries with the largest forest areas are Sweden (27 980 thousand ha), Finland (22 409 thousand ha) and Spain (18 576 thousand ha), as estimated in 2021.

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The stocks of timber in the EU's forests totalled an estimated 29 billion m3 (over bark) in 2021. Germany accounted for the largest share of this (13.1 %), followed by Sweden (12.5 %), and France (11.7 %).

The good news is that stocks of timber in forests increased in every Member State, giving 31.2 % growth at the EU level in the period of 2000–2021.

The largest increase was estimated for Ireland (154 %), France (66 %), Cyprus and Italy (54%), while, at the other end of the spectrum, a much more moderate increase was estimated for Sweden (14 %) as well as Czechia (10 %) and Slovenia (6 %).

Latvia's stocks of timber in forests increased by more than 20 % during the same period to account for more than 2.5 % of total EU stocks.

Timber stocks in EU forests
Timber stocks in EU forests

"The increase in timber stock observed between 2000 and 2021 can be explained by the expansion of forest areas due to afforestation and natural reforestation," said Eurostat.

The importance of forestry to the Latvian economy is demonstrated by the fact that it is one of only four states in which the sector accounts for more than 1% of GDP, alongside Sweden, Estonia and Finland. Indeed for 2021, forestry accounted for 1.5% of Latvian GDP and amounted to 490 million euros.

In addition some 17,400 persons work in Latvia's forestry sector, equivalent to 5.1 persons per 1,000 hectares of forest. However, there is room for improvement as far as labor productivity goes. The highest levels of labour productivity were recorded in Finland (€ 201 500 per person employed), France (€ 114 400 per person employed) and Sweden (€ 79 900 per person employed), while in Latvia the figure was € 28,100. Still, this was at least much better than the worst of the bunch: Cyprus (€ 4 100 per person employed) and Greece (€ 5 800 per person employed).

Lithuania managed an equivalent figure of € 24,400 and Estonia one of € 45,000.



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