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Biomass for fuel could damage furniture industry
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Concerns have been expressed about the effect that government directives which encourage the burning of wood are likely to have on British manufacturing. Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA) and the British Furniture Confederation (BFC) held a meeting at the House of Lords this week to launch a report commissioned by FIRA.
Biomass for fuel could damage furniture industry

The organisation's document focuses on the Renewables Obligation Woody Biomass Subsidy and the detrimental effect it is having on the British furniture industry.

The launch event enabled FIRA and the BFC to share the report with parliament, and appropriate Ministers and MPs were invited. The report is the outcome of a number of Biomass Summits held at FIRA earlier this year. These events brought together key industry leaders to discuss how government subsidies encouraging power companies to burn wood, are distorting the market for new timber, thereby forcing up prices for the manufacturing of furniture products. The woody biomass report will be now be used to lobby the Government on behalf of the furniture industry.

The document outlines a series of recommendations on how the Government can ensure that manufacturers are allowed to continue business without facing the difficulty of coping with rising prices from the woody biomass subsidy distortion.

The report also explains how the biomass subsidy is having a negative economic impact within the UK furniture industry. Following the introduction of biomass subsidies, wood prices have risen by 55.1 per cent over the past 5 years, having a significant impact on furniture production margins.

With increased costs for furniture production, an increase in jobs losses is also likely. Many manufacturers are based in rural areas where unemployment is already high and there are limited employment opportunities. As a result, if the UK wood panel industry was to disappear, 4,400 jobs would be lost.

With increased costs for furniture production, it follows that furniture product prices for the consumer will also increase. This is especially poignant as the subsidy paid for burning renewable fuel is paid by consumers through their electricity bill. This means consumers are paying for a renewable energy form which distorts the market perversely against them as both a consumer and also to British manufacturing.

Over its life time, burning woody biomass also emits significantly greater CO2 than wood panel manufacturing. The report suggests that the biomass subsidy should not encourage the burning of virgin wood, which could be used productively through its lifecycle, before being burnt for fuel. It suggests that furniture at the end of its lifecycle is burnt for fuel, rather than placed in landfill.

In addition, the report discusses how biomass stations relying on wood imports from abroad are a threat to the world’s forests and may even increase climate-change emissions.

Stephen McPartland MP spoke at the parliamentary launch event, in his capacity as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Furniture Industry Group. The Chair of the British Furniture Confederation, Paul Von der Heyde also spoke.

For more information on FIRA’s Biomass Report call FIRA on 01438 777 700, email info@fira.co.uk or visit www.fira.co.uk.



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