The largest importers of Russian wood in Europe and the USA

The largest importers of Russian wood in Europe and the USA

An analysis by Earthsight

In 2020, Russia reported exporting $11.7bn of timber, pulp and paper. Of that total, $2.9bn (25%) was destined for the EU-27, $0.2bn (2%) for the USA and $0.2bn (2%) for the UK (Source: UNCOMTRADE).

The following information is based on company reports and analysis of Russian shipment records by Earthsight. It provides information on the 15 largest firms Earthsight research has found to be importing Russian timber, paper and wood furniture into either Europe or the USA. Together these firms were found to be responsible for some $1.5bn in purchases from Russia in the year to Feb 2021. Most of the companies are multi-billion dollar enterprises. A number have been exposed by Earthsight in the past for sourcing wood linked to illegal logging in Russia or elsewhere. One of the firms is owned by a Russian oligarch who was previously a Russian parliamentarian for Putin’s United Russia party.

  1. UPM Kymmene

The largest importer of Russian wood in Europe and America is Finnish firm UPM Kymmene. UPM is the 7th largest pulp, paper and forestry company on the planet, and had €10bn in sales in 2021. Its largest markets include Germany (€1.4bn), USA (€1.1bn), the UK (€0.6bn) and France (€0.4bn). UPM imported $282m of timber from Russia in the year to Feb 2021. The company reported paying €4m in taxes to the Russian state in 2021. UPM’s largest shareholder (and also Chair of its Board) is one of Finland’s richest men, Björn Wahlroos, a vocal neoliberal.

  1. International Paper

The second largest importer of Russian wood in Europe and America is US firm International Paper, the world’s largest paper firm (turnover $21bn). International Paper imported $54m of pulp into Poland to feed its large paper mill there (which Earthsight has previously exposed for sourcing high-risk Ukrainian wood). It also holds a 50% stake in Ilim Group, one of Russia’s largest forestry and wood product companies, which manages 8 million hectares of Siberian forest. Ilim sold $197m of paper and pulp to Europe in the year to Feb 2021. International Paper received dividends worth over a quarter of a billion dollars from Ilim in 2019. Earthsight found that Ilim’s large mill in Siberia sourced wood from forests controlled by local timber baron Evgeny Bakurov, where rampant illegality was taking place.

  1. Stora Enso

Stora Enso is a Finnish pulp and paper giant, the sixth largest such firm in the world, with €10.2bn sales in 2021. Nine per cent of the firm’s wood procurement comes from Russia, including from forests it manages itself. Shipment records indicate that Stora imported $192m of timber from Russia in the year to Feb 2021; around half of this was logs, export of which has since been banned by the Russian state in order to promote downstream processing. Stora’s largest markets include Germany (€1.0bn), UK (€0.4bn), France (€0.4bn) and the USA (€0.2bn). Stora paid €24m in taxes to the Russian state in 2021, and ‘collected’ a further €33m on its behalf. Stora has three large corrugated board mills in Russia, with a combined production capacity of 395 million m2/year; its two Russian sawmills produce 395,000m3 of lumber and mouldings and 65,000 tonnes of pellets annually. Stora’s largest shareholder is the Finnish state, followed by the super-rich Wallenberg family of Sweden.

  1. Mondi

Paper multinational Mondi (€6.7bn revenues 2020) imported $143m of paper into the EU in the year to Feb 2021, mostly to Germany, Italy and Belgium. Mondi is stock-exchange listed in the UK, and has its European HQ in Austria. Earthsight previously revealed how shipments of logs from Ukraine bound for Mondi’s mill in the Czech Republic were seized in 2016, allegedly for having been mis-declared as fuelwood in order to circumvent a log export ban.

  1. Eduard Van Leer

Van Leer is a Dutch firm which imports Russian plywood, pellets and lumber. In the year to Feb 2021 it imported some $93m in total, to Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark.

  1. Metsa Group

Metsa is one the ‘big three’ Finnish forestry and wood product giants, along with UPM and Stora Enso. It has €6bn of sales in 2021, of which €3bn were in the EU and €0.6bn in the Americas. One of the group’s Divisions, Metsa Board, is stock-exchange listed. It sourced 9 per cent of its wood raw materials from Russia in 2021. Metsa has its own forest concessions and mills in Russia. Metsa Board’s largest markets include USA (€0.4bn), Germany (€0.2bn), Italy (€0.1bn) and the UK (€0.1bn). Metsa has a major, long term supply agreement with leading UK DIY retailer B&Q going back to 1998, to whom it supplies 400 different products, which it stores in large distribution centres at Boston and Grangemouth (it is not clear if this includes wood from Russia however). Metsa Grp is currently being investigated alongside a number of other pulp and paper companies by the EU for price fixing.

  1. Orlimex

Czech-headquartered Orlimex is the largest importer of birch plywood in Europe, and a specialist importer and distributor of Russian plywood and Siberian pine. It handles 250,000m3 of plywood a year, and has subsidiaries in Germany, Poland and the UK (where it sells 25,000m3/yr). The company imported $88m of Russian wood in the year to Feb 2021, with the main destinations being Germany, the Netherlands, UK, Poland, USA and Belgium. Orlimex stock ‘Sveza’ brand Russian plywood, as well as other kinds, and are one of the main distributors of Sveza Russian plywood in the UK (where it has warehouses in Tilbury, Mboro, Leeds, and Scunthorpe). Orlimex is owned by Belarusian Sergej Pavlovec. In August 2020 the company announced its solidarity with pro-democracy protestors in Belarus following the post-election crackdown by Lukashenko.

  1. Pulp Mill Holding

Pulp Mill Holding is an Austrian-registered holding company for the large Russian Arkhangelsk Pulp & Paper Mill group ($0.7bn revenues 2020). It imported $75m of paper (main markets Germany, Italy and USA) and $5m of pulp (to Germany) in the year to Feb 2021. Arkangelsk PPM is the largest producer of cardboard in Russia and one of the country’s leaders in the production of pulp. The company produces 1 million tons of pulp and 614,000 tonnes of cardboard each year. It makes the famous green covered school notebooks issued to all Russian kids, and has received the ‘Order of Lenin’. Arkhangelsk PPM is controlled by Russian oligarch Volodymyr Krupchak, who is also on the board of Sawmill 25 CJSC, the largest Russian lumber exporter to Europe. Krupchak helped found the Arhkangelsk branch of Putin’s United Russia Party, and represented the party in the Russian parliament in the 2000s. Krupchak has a Cypriot passport and is resident in the UK.

  1. Segezha

Moscow stock-exhange-listed Segezha is the largest logging company in European Russia, cutting 8 million cubic metres a year, and with a $1bn turnover in 2020. It is Russia’s largest sawntimber producer, and the fifth largest producer of birch ply in the world. Its sales to Europe and the US are mostly through its subsidiary Arka Merchants Ltd, which is registered in Ireland. Earthsight was able to trace a total of $77m of purchases by Segezha from its Russian operations destined for Europe and the USA during the year to Feb 2021, including shipments of both wood and paper. The largest markets were the USA, UK, Germany, Netherlands and Romania. Leading institutional investors in Europe, the UK and USA bought shares in the company when it went public in April 2021. 72% of Segezha’s production is exported. In 2020 the firm sold 100,000m3 of softwood lumber in the UK, and 63,000m3 in France. The same year it sold 26,600m3 of birch ply to the USA, and 25,300m3 to Germany. Segezha is a major supplier of the paper sacks used for cement and other dry building materials sold in the EU and UK.

  1. Jacob Juergensen

Jacob Juergensen is a major German wood importer and distributor, and the largest European importer of Siberian larch. Earthsight has previously revealed how Juergensen is a major buyer of Siberian larch from a company connected to Russia’s largest illegal logging case this century. The firm has maintained links to the Russian firm involved despite Earthsight revealing the full details in its Taiga King report in December 2020. Earthsight traced $64m of purchases of Russian lumber and paper by Jurgensen in the year to Feb 2021.

  1. Cordes

Cordes is a large German firm based in Bremerhaven importing, distributing and retailing a wide range of timber and wood products. Earthsight traced $53m of timber purchased from Russia by the company in the year to February 2021.

  1. Engie

Engie Energy Management, a subsidiary of giant French energy group Engie (revenues €58bn in 2020), imported $40m of Russian wood pellets to Belgium in the year to Feb 2021. The pellets are to feed Engie’s Rodenhuize biomass plant in Ghent, which produces 1.2 Terawatt hours of electricity, enough for 320,000 families. In Dec 2021 the Flemish government announced its intention to block imports of 1.5mill tonnes of wood pellets/yr from Siberia, Chile and Canada to feed this plant on the basis of a lack of sufficient certainty that the pellets do not contribute to deforestation, and because of concerns over possible illegal logging in Russia.

  1. CM Biomass Partners (USTC)

CM Biomass imported $39m of wood pellets from Russia to Denmark in the year to Feb 2021. This represented a large majority of Denmark’s overall imports of wood from Russia. The pellets are destined for home heating and electricity production. CM Biomass are one of the largest independent wood pellet trading companies in the world, trading more than 3 million tonnes a year. The company has warehouses in Petersburg and Novorossiysk in Russia. In 2021 a 60% stake in the company was purchased by Danish conglomerate United Shipping & Trading Company (USTC), whose owner is the founder Torben Østergaard-Nielsen and his two daughters, Nina Østergaard Borris and Mia Østergaard Rechnitzer. Torben Østergaard-Nielsen is a Danish oil billionaire. He was Denmark’s 11th richest person as of 2015.

  1. RPL International

RPL is the largest US importer of Russian birch plywood. Earthsight documented shipments worth $36m in the year to Feb 2021. It has distribution warehouses in Baltimore, Houston, Long Beach and Oakland. Have a partnership with Syktyvkar Plywood mill in Russia (SyPly), one of Russia’s largest manufacturers of plywood and wood-based furniture panels, which makes SyPly branded plywood and Lamarty brand melamine-faced chipboard, and has prod cap of 230,000m3 of ply and 300,000m3 chipboard a year. It is the 4th largest Russian plywood manufacturer. RPL is registered in Nevada as a ‘Foreign corporation’ with its jurisdiction in secrecy-jurisdiction of Delaware. No information is publicly available on beneficial ownership or revenues.

  1. IKEA

IKEA made direct imports of wood furniture panels and finished furniture from Russia worth $33m in the year to 2021. Almost all of these were supplied by own IKEA’s own factories in Russia. The panels were shipped to IKEA furniture factories in Sweden and Poland. The finished furniture went to Germany, France, Austria, Italy, USA and UK. A great deal more Russian wood makes its way into IKEA goods on sale in Europe and the US indirectly via other countries and importers. IKEA consumed 1.9 million cubic metres of Russian wood in 2019, almost double that of five years earlier. This represents at least a million felled trees. Russia is IKEA’s second largest source of wood. IKEA is also a major consumer of wood from Belarus. In 2021, Earthsight exposed how IKEA was sourcing wood linked to a major illegal logging case in Russian Siberia. The firm halted all purchases of wood from that region of Russia in response, but continues to use wood from elsewhere in the country.

Imports from Russia Year to Feb 2021 Total grp turnover (2021 unless stated) Based

$282m €9.8bn Finland
$153m (inc 50% of Ilim Grp sales) $20.6bn USA
$192m €10.2bn Finland
$143m €6.2bn South Africa (UK stock exchange)
$93m ? Netherlands
$90m €6bn Finland
$88m $84m 2019 Czech Rep
$80m $0.7bn Austria (Russia)
$77m $1bn Russia
$64m $130m Germany
$53m ? Germany
$40m €58bn France
$39m $10.4bn Denmark
$36m ?? USA
$33m €26bn Sweden