Bulgarians stock up on firewood as energy costs surge: AFP report

AFP , Thursday 15 Dec 2022

Winter is closing in but the sound of chainsaws still reverberates on the forest-covered slopes of the mountains in northern Bulgaria, while horses stand ready to transport the freshly cut wood down the steep paths.

Bulgaria energy crisis
A man unloads firewood from a truck in front of a house in the town of Teteven on December 8, 2022. AFP


Many in the EU's poorest member of 6.5 million people have rushed to stock up on firewood as Europe struggles with an energy crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine.

"Firewood remains the cheapest means of heating, and demand has increased three times compared to last year," farming minister Yavor Gechev said recently.

Gechev has pleaded for people not to buy more wood than they need as the usual coal deliveries from Ukraine's Donbas region have largely failed to arrive in Bulgaria.

Over half of the households in Bulgaria use coal and wood for heating, especially in the rural areas, where frequent cuts make electricity unreliable.

Even before the current crisis, one in four Bulgarians was unable to heat their home properly in wintertime, the highest percentage across the European Union, according to Eurostat data.

"Getting harder"

In the mountainous region around Teteven, 4,800 households have placed orders for firewood, compared to less than 2,000 households last year, said Stoycho Moskovski, a press officer for the municipality of 18,000 residents.

A lack of snow so far this year has allowed logging to continue well into December, said the chief of the local state forestry farm, engineer Docho Dochev.

After workers fell young beech trees high up over Teteven, the logs are cut into one-metre-long (3.3-feet-long) pieces for transportation, mostly by horses because of the mountainous terrain.

On a crisp day earlier this month, workers loaded the logs on the saddles of a dozen horses that waited patiently.

Then they started their short journey down a steep forest path to a place from where the wood can be loaded onto trucks.

Ten horses can transport about three cubic metres of firewood at a time and usually make two trips per day, Dochev told AFP.

In the nearby villages on the way down to Teteven, piles of logs were seen lining fences, and stocks of firewood, cut and ready for the stove, filled sheds, balconies and staircases.

But not everyone has gotten their wood on time this year.

"Every year I use roughly the same amount of five cubic metres of firewood for heating. But this year I waited for quite some time -- over two months -- for the delivery," pensioner Blagovesta Dogandzhiyska, 80, told AFP as a trucker unloaded logs outside her house in Teteven.

This year, she is also paying double the 90 leva (45 euros) per cubic metre that she spent last year.

"It's very hard (to heat my home), and it's getting even harder," the pensioner shrugged.

Short link: