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Fabrício Amaral Poloni

Operational General Manager at Arcelor Mittal


Forest system: a promising future

Without a doubt, Brazil is a country with strong competitiveness in the global forestry sector. However, some variables have changed significantly in recent years, which has made our forestry operations and business more challenging. And what changed?

There are several changes that can have a significant impact depending on geographic location, genetic material allocated, type of operation, degree of mechanization and so on. To begin with, rainfall changes with irregular distributions, between years and months of the year, which, in a way, ends up favoring the susceptibility of forest areas to pests and an oscillation in the regenerative capabilities of post-harvest strains.

As if the aspects of nature were not enough, we have also suffered from a very great difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified professionals for the forestry business, from operators to managers, which increases the effort and time spent in assertively executing what is needed. be done to obtain a forest with a high degree of competitiveness.

In addition to these, sustainability and the value of the business image and brand have required increasingly safer operations, which is ideal, which do not admit risks that were previously managed.

The prices of inputs, equipment and land have increased significantly in recent times. The latter, then, has often been inaccessible to forestry producers. The agricultural frontier has advanced into regions that were previously lands with a unique and exclusively forestry vocation, now no longer so. We still have a growing demand for wood in our country, due to new industrial projects and with a projection of even greater acceleration due to companies' decarbonization agenda.

This all ends up resulting in a higher final cost of standing wood, which can affect margins and the attractiveness of investments in many forestry businesses. When we talk about changes in irregular rainfall regimes, pests, clonal allocation, use of low productivity soils, we often see the Average Individual Volume of trees decrease drastically in some cases, making the subsequent stages of tree processing more expensive, depending on the consumption of fuel, lubricating oils, parts and values invested in the equipment. Everything ends up being relatively more expensive to process each cubic meter of wood.

We have been discussing a lot lately about the impact of harvesting methods on the final productivity of forests and the rate of use of our assets. I have been working in the charcoal production segment for over 20 years and during all this time we have assessed the final cost of charcoal harvested using the complete tree method, which uses a feller, as more viable for the final cost. buncher, skidder and increasingly productive, larger and heavier tracing claws.

The impacts of the type of cutting and movement of machines on the forest and the post-harvest regeneration stage of the first rotation and the loss of stump survival rates have always been noted. However, when we calculated the cost of a different harvesting model and compared it with the costs of forest formation up to that stage, we always opted for the short-term return, that is, cheaper harvesting.

Today, fixed assets (land) and forest formation costs are much higher than in the past. The price of wood on the market is three times higher than it was 10 years ago, which makes us rethink the viability of all operations in the forest production and wood processing chain. Studies and practice in companies show that the difference between the survival rate in the cut-to-length system and the full tree system can exceed 10 percentage points.

If we take a hypothetical example, where we obtain 90% survival in the second rotation, in the cut-to-length system and 80% in the full tree system, we will lose 5% of the productive capacity of the land, when we compare the two methods, and we will lose 10 % when we calculate the result of the full tree system, which is a lot. Currently, this has much more value than a few years ago due to the price and availability of wood.

Given these findings, we have some challenges ahead. First, improve processes, equipment and genetic materials so that we can lose less in the complete tree harvesting system, maximizing land use and return on capital used in forest formation; and or make the cut-to-length harvesting model more viable for application in the charcoal production segment.

Another challenge that will become increasingly relevant is the carbon footprint. The equipment used in harvesting systems is robust machines, with high productivity, which also requires high fuel consumption. Currently, the percentage of bio-oil in diesel is low. We will need to think about equipment that works with fuels from renewable sources, electrical equipment and increasingly efficient when we think about tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, emitted per ton of wood produced.

And last but not least, we have a huge challenge in training qualified professionals for the sector, attracting and retaining them in organizations. Given the Brazilian potential and the growth plans for the sector, I see our future with great enthusiasm, even with the challenges that lie ahead.