The SEFB (Syndicat des Exploitants de la Filière Bois) is an important actor and interlocutor at both the national and regional levels for the entire wood industry. To understand the objectives and actions of the union, we asked Laurent Maréchaux, SEFB’s general delegate, a few questions.
Can you introduce yourself? What is your background?
My family has been in the wood business for 3 generations. My grandfather and my father owned a slicing and peeling factory in the suburbs of Paris where I started my career as a worker before leaving for the United States in the 80’s to work in logging and hardwood trading (oak, cherry, maple…) to Europe.
What led you to work for the Wood Industry Association?
When it was created in March 2016, the Syndicat des Exploitants de la Filière Bois (SEFB) was looking for a versatile general delegate capable of structuring this young union, creating a constructive relational fabric with the other upstream unions, defending the interests of the operators with the administration and members of parliament and taking charge of press relations. Being versatile and convinced that the fight of the SEFB to defend the threatened profession of trader was a just cause, I immediately accepted the proposal of President David Caillouel to join their fight.
What role does it play in the wood industry and in the field of eco-construction?
Operators and merchants are an essential link in the wood industry because they are the only ones who can optimize the resource 100%. Their role as dispatchers of different species and qualities according to the needs of processors allows them to direct the most appropriate wood for eco-sustainable construction.
In order to reduce the deficit of the wood sector which leads many processors to buy their supplies abroad, the SEFB is trying to promote secondary species (cherry, ash, beech, chestnut…) which they tend to neglect in favor of oak alone.
Another important point is that foresters are particularly attached to local industrialization and territorial networking, which reduces transportation costs and helps reduce air pollution linked to the movement of raw materials.
What difficulties do you encounter on a daily basis in the exercise of your mission?
To be represented in the national (France Bois Forêt) and regional interprofessions which are locked by a few barons who privilege their particular interests over the general interest and lead the wood industry into a dead end.
What successes can you look forward to?
To have had the Council of State symbolically annul the EU label for each company, which is a gas factory that unjustly penalizes private owners whose part of their harvest of inferior quality oaks is prohibited for export and ends up as firewood; this deprives them of a substantial income, which is essential for the reforestation of their forests with hardwoods
Instead of setting up a labeling system for each lot that would guarantee that the best oaks are kept in France, the ONF has persevered in this ineptitude and set up a new incoherent and coercive system that is turning against the whole sector; starting with the sawmills themselves who, unless they break the law – which some of them do – can no longer sell for export the poor quality oaks they do not use.
How does the SEFB mainly intervene? Are the actions carried out only at the national level?
If the SEFB privileges in its strategic approach the constructive dialogue with the unions of the upstream (private owners, cooperatives, forestry experts, forestry work companies, forest communities.), the administration and the wood and forestry study groups of the two assemblies, it does not refrain from appealing to the courts to be recognized in the interprofessions, to replace the labeling of oak trees by lots with the labeling of oak trees by company, to condemn the monopoly that the FNB and the ONF want to establish in the trading of oak trees…
What are the issues that the SEFB is struggling with today? Is EU labelling still a major issue today?
Our priority remains the defense of the profession of logger-trader, which some large processors wish to see disappear in order to appropriate the entire resource at the lowest cost, to the detriment of its optimal valorization on which the future repopulation of our forests depends.
On a daily basis, we are fighting for access for all to the resource in full transparency of price and quality in order to prevent the national forest heritage from being sold off to a cartel of large processors.
Furthermore, the SEFB intends to actively support small local sawmills – 3 out of 4 of which have disappeared in 20 years – to counteract the death of these sawmills
Last but not least, the SEFB – concerned with a reasoned exploitation of the forests and their renewal – especially in hardwoods – makes sustainable development and the controlled exploitation of the resource a major issue underlying its various actions.
Thank you to Laurent Maréchaux, General Delegate of the SEFB for answering our questions!