Have you noticed the displays of packaged firewood at your local supermarket? At Fresh Market, I was taken aback to see European white birch logs for sale, and even more surprised to see that the wood was imported from Estonia. It is hard for me to imagine that the cutting, drying and shipping birch to Kentucky is economical. It is reminiscent of the idiom about coals to Newcastle.
Kentucky produces a veritable ocean of firewood. From small tree care companies in the suburbs to large manufacturers, there are a lot of people in our state making firewood. Most of the large manufacturers are integrated wood products facilities making a variety of wood products including firewood. I noticed that Kroger is carrying firewood from B&K, a 57-year-old family company in Madisonville, KY.
How is it that wood imported from Estonia can compete with local Kentucky wood? It is possible that the white bark of birch makes the wood more attractive in a fireplace. I am not an economist, but seems odd to me. The birch was $7.99 for 0.75 cu ft and Kroger oak from B&K is $5.98. Oak has a higher heat content than birch, so the price difference for the heat produced is even greater. This may simply reflect the generally higher prices at Fresh Market than Kroger.