The small sector of firewood pellets overstretched

The small sector of firewood pellets overstretched

Customers who place orders on the Internet and are never delivered. Companies that send goods and see themselves in exchange rewarded with wooden checks. In recent months, wood pellets have been no exception to the rule of any sector in the grip of a panic movement: scammers have taken advantage of the shortages that have appeared on this market to build a plethora of scams.

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Wanting to protect themselves against soaring gas and electricity prices, many French people have indeed flocked to these pellets for heating this winter, causing overstocking and soaring prices. In October, in the space of a year, the price of a 15-kilo bag of pellets had thus risen from around 6 to 10 euros, an increase of almost 67%. To a lesser extent, that of wood logs, also more popular, has appreciated by around 20% since July.

“Instead of buying in season, customers shopped four to six months in advance compared to usual. Everyone asked for their ton of pellets, which represented monster volumes », says Eric Vial, general delegate of the association dedicated to the Propellet France sector, based in Chambéry. “The distributors received 200 to 300 phone calls a day, some from hyperaggressive people. Some have therefore preferred not to take on new customers.he recalls.

Rising production costs

These anxious behaviors – which some compare to the toilet paper or pasta “syndrome” observed during the Covid-19 pandemic – have only aggravated an inflation that is already well under way. Between the end of 2021 and the summer of 2022, wood pellet prices had doubled. Over this period, production costs soared, under the combined effect of the increase in the prices of electricity, gas (to dry the pellets), transport, and raw materials, such as sawdust from wood.

A tension exacerbated by the decline, for four months, of the construction market, which, in turn, causes a slowdown in the sawing of wood and therefore in the production of these green chips. At the same time, demand has accelerated under the effect of government policies – and in particular the MaPrimeRénov’ system – which has encouraged the French to replace their oil or gas installations with wood-burning stoves or boilers.

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In 2021, according to the Observatory of Renewable Energies, sales of these devices jumped by more than 34% compared to 2020. Result, “the rate of installation of wood-burning appliances is greater than the supply capacity”, estimates Frédéric Plan, general delegate of the French Federation of fuels, fuels and heating. Before warning that this difference should remain around 5% if all goes well, and increase by 15% if the winter is difficult”.

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