Business & Economy

Firewood price surges amid Ukraine war, energy crisis in North Macedonia

By Gjorgi Licovski

Skopje, Nov 14 (EFE).- The war in Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis has seen the price of firewood and wood pellets more than double in North Macedonia, where over two thirds of the population use it to heat their homes.

The jump in prices, coupled with a supply shortage, have raised concerns among many in the Balkan country ahead of an increasingly uncertain winter.

“I am afraid of the war in Ukraine and the situation here in North Macedonia. I will only buy half the amount of wood I would normally get,” says Kime Slaveski, 82, a resident of a village near the southwestern town of Struga.

The government has tried to wean the country off of fire stoves by subsidizing alternative heating sources such as inverter air conditioners, which have a lower environmental impact.

But despite those efforts, the gas crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine, the steady increase of electricity prices and warnings of potential power cuts and usage restrictions are pushing many households to turn to firewood as a primary heating resource – all of which has caused a surge in the demand for pellets.

The price for a 15-kilo bag of wood pellets has shot up from 3 euro ($3.06) last year to between 7 and 9 euro this year.

A small pellet production facility in Berovo, a small town near the Malesevo mountains on the border with Bulgaria, blames the rise in the asking price on the increase in the cost of production and energy.

The factory used to pay 280,000 denari (4,550 euro) each month on electricity, but its latest energy bill had jumped to 800,000 denari.

In an attempt to ease the population’s concerns, state energy company ESM issued a press statement reassuring the country that the firm can supply enough electricity for households and small consumers.

Economy minister Kreshnik Bekteshi has also said an agreement has been struck with neighboring Bulgaria to supply gas starting next year, a measure which should avert a looming energy shortfall.

But even with those measures, demand for firewood in North Macedonia will remain unusually high this year, according to Valentin Gruevski, the director of the publicly-owned Nacionalni Sumi (‘National Forest’), the country’s largest provider of firewood.

“Considering the world crisis and price growth of all energies, demand for firewood is very high, beyond the supply capabilities of Nacionalni Sumi and much higher than what could be provided from North Macedonia,” Gruevski tells EPA-EFE.

“Due to the rise in demand, the prices of other energy sources are increasing daily, causing panic among the people that there might be a lack of electricity, which also has led people to buy double the amount of firewood that they used to. The demand for firewood is so high that the company can not produce enough,” he adds.

Sasa Jovanovic, a sector manager at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, says the current increase in price of firewood is due to decreased production by Nacionalni Sumi, which manages 90% of the country’s forests.

“This year we have an additional problem – the (gloomy) perspective of people because of the war in Ukraine,” Jovanovic explains, adding that “people are buying higher quantities of firewood for fear of a lack of other energy resources such as gas and electricity”.

On November 2, the government set a price cap for firewood at 4,500 denari per square meter, while the highest price for firewood pellets was fixed at 27 denari per kilogram.

“In most cases, the private warehouses are abusing the fear of people caused by the war in Ukraine, and due to the lack of energy sources are trying to make higher profits,” Jovanovic says, pointing out that the shortage is most severe in large cities like the capital Skopje, where demand is higher. EFE


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