Burning Ambition for Business; It's an Industry That Is Worth Pounds 40m to the Region's Economy and Employs around 1,500 People in the North East. KAREN DENT Reports on an Event Aiming to Get the Region's Forestry and Timber Firms out to Meet Their Buyers and Win New Business

Article excerpt

ALIFESTYLE choice for many and a necessity for others, wood fuel is currently enjoying a higher profile as part of the green agenda to source heat and energy from environmental sources.

But as a sector, timber and forestry is a big player in the regional economy, worth around pounds 40m and providing employment for 1,500 people.

Enterprises range from landowners with their own woodland, to businesses providing timber for the construction industry and sole traders selling logs locally in the winter.

Wood fuel producers are now being encouraged to bring their products to a special auction later this year, to sell directly to buyers and make contacts for future business.

Currently, the only similar event of its kind runs in Lincolnshire and it's hoped the Northumberland Firewood Fair, which will be held at Meldon Park, near Morpeth, on October 16, will follow suit to become an annual event. The auction is being organised by Northwood - the North East Woodlands Initiative - which wants firms across the sector dealing with everything from firewood processing equipment, woodland management equipment, wood stoves and boilers to woodland management services, to come along.

Northwood director Ben Tansey said: "Lincolnshire has been running firewood fair for a few years - and it''s gone from strength to strength with last year over 2,000 people attending.

"To make The Northumberland Fire Wood Fair a success we need firewood to sell, so I would like to invite anyone interested in attending to contact us.

"We''ve only just announced the event and already have several wood fuel supply businesses signed up and committed to bring wood to the auction.

"This is a unique opportunity for businesses. Through this event we will raise the profile of the timber industry and give businesses the opportunity to meet their customers on a personal face-to-face basis. We''re confident the industry will support it."

Key to the event's success will be smaller enterprises, which provide logs to home across the region.

John Farquhar, Northwood's wood fuel project officer, says: "It's commonly sold by postcards in shops, adverts in the local papers and parish magazines. More and more have websites but not many offer the option of buying online.

"For the majority, it's still a part-time activity where they'd deliver at the weekend or the evening."

He says the Firewood Fair will offer businesses a major opportunity to sell their produce both on the day and to win new business for the future. …

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