National Forestry Board
SIMEONOV Atanas Iliev & KOVATCHEV Boris Kostov
Harvesting is the economic activity that provides state forest enterprises with the principal means of self-support. However, harvesting is low in productivity and is excessively labour-intensive.
Under the pre-1989 socialist centrally-planned economy, harvesting was an activity in which planned losses were subsidized by the state. In 1990, harvesting operations passed to a self-supporting system and began developing a market-oriented approach, making it necessary to find new forms of generating the necessary resources. Given that losses prior to 1989 were more the consequence of planned under-pricing of round timber rather than defective organization of working methods, the focus moved to increasing selling prices. As a result, and despite the fact that the volume of timber usage has fallen almost two-fold compared to the pre-1989 period, revenues have been sufficient to ensure the self-sufficiency of state enterprises. This situation is atypical of the transition period.
Since many of Bulgaria's state timber users are in a phase of deep recession and low solvency, consumption has fallen, creating considerable problems in the market for state forestry timber, in particular for small-sized timber. As a result, a portion of harvested timber has been exported to Greece and Turkey, creating dissent on the part of a number of Bulgarian environmental organizations. The reason is not so much the question of exportation in itself, the level of which is relatively insignificant, but of the creation of a chain of middlemen and a high number of local persons involved in timber processing. In many areas, these latter processors become the main users of timber products.
The annual volume of the roundwood harvest in Bulgaria is approximately 4 million m3, of which
the respective shares of coniferous and broadleaved sawlogs are 20% and 25% (400,000– 450,000
The shares of so-called ‘technological’ timber and fuelwood are both between 600,000–900,000 m3.
Use of available equipment is the main element in carrying out harvesting programmes. Following the decrease in production, many state enterprises froze the use of a portion of their production machinery, accumulated during the years of intensive use, while others offered them on the market as unsold or surplus stock. The average number of machines in use has shown a permanent downward trend since 1990, except for loading equipment which has marked a significant level of growth.
The overall results are higher unit and primary costs, which are the consequence not only of traditional factors such as bad organization and discipline but also of factors such as the decline in harvesting levels and poor quality repair. These are the result of delays in the reform process and in the privatization of state and municipal enterprises in the period 1994–96, as well as in the creation of suitable conditions for sale of machinery and denationalization of activities.
The degree of mechanization of forest production activities in Bulgaria is positive — almost all operations are mechanized since there is sufficient equipment: cutting and primary processing use modern Husqvarna and Stihl machines, and most of the tractors used for timber extraction are agricultural tractors adapted for harvesting. Chainsaws are also used, although they receive a negative ergonomic valuation, and cableways are deemed adequate although insufficient in number and too expensive. Specialized ‘Shipka’ crane-manipulators constructed in Bulgaria are used for loading operations.
The problem of forest road construction is directly related to the use of equipment. In the construction of the road infrastructure necessary to provide access to wood cutting areas, the shorter the distance the greater the use of machinery and the greater the protection of timber resources. In terms of average indicators of running metres per hectare, Bulgaria's 7.9 running metres (rm) per hectare is low compared to countries such as Austria and Switzerland which have more than 25 rm/hectare. The ratio of unsurfaced roads (so-called ‘summer roads’) to surfaced roads (using asphalt or concrete) is 5:1. To achieve a 1:1 balance, it is necessary to construct about 30,000 km of new surfaced roads. In the period 1990–97, only 100 km were built annually compared to the 660 km in the period 1980–90, mainly due to an increase in the costs of forest road construction and a lack of Forestry Fund resources. It is important to note that this situation is not just a question of high altitude mountain basins; road structures in new forests in lower zones have not been built, with the result that tending areas remain inaccessible.
The new Forest Law and the law on restitution of forest land that became effective at the end of 1997 have created the conditions for the protection of Bulgarian forests as a national resource — an environment formed through the regeneration, sustainable development and multi-functional use of forests in the interests of both owners and society at large. Forest activities in general are regulated under the first law, while pluralism and justice in forest ownership are ensured under the second.
Today in Bulgaria the following strategic measures are being carried out:
At the same time, experts in environmentally sound forest operations are working in the following sectors:
The selection of new technologies and technological systems is necessary as a result of the new requirements for permanent and compulsory environmental forest use. It is important to identify whether this can be achieved on its own or in the form of a compromise with potential economic benefits, since environmental and economic objectives are often incompatible. New technologies will also be influenced by new forms of forest ownership. Problems related to the ways and means of privatization in harvesting operations derive from the specific nature of forestry. In contrast with industry where enterprises have been privatized, private forest ownership is currently low (less than 25%). The task now is to determine the scope and intensity of privatization of forest activities, find suitable ways of carrying this out and define parameters for state involvement in these activities. A methodology for the selection and construction of new technologies has been put in place, and criteria have been established for assessing technologies currently in use. The objective is to identify and introduce the most appropriate technologies and technological schemes.
Evaluation of existing equipment is based on the need to judge compatibility with new conditions, in particular in terms of impact on the environment, because the quantity of existing equipment is extensive and cannot be neglected. The solution to this problem is closely related to the technologies themselves and depends on the approach adopted for approval of their application. Privatization will have been completed within 1–2 years, but it is necessary to determine the share of state participation in equipment supply in relationship to the level of its participation in forestry activities.
The tasks and problems identified above are included in an open programme for individual or joint research by Bulgarian experts on environmentally sound forest operations in a period of transition towards a market economy. At this stage, however, it is possible to predict with some confidence that, given the new legislation on forestry and the restructuring of forestry, other problems will also be solved. Decisions concerning which problems to solve, in which order and to which extent will depend exclusively on the time available and on their relevance.