Lars-Eric Åström responds immediately when asked to name the key events in Södra's long history. First comes Gösta Edström. Of course. Without him there would be no Södra.
"Second was when we bought out the state in January 1985," said Lars-Eric. "If we hadn't done that, it's unlikely that Södra would exist today. The government appointed in 1982 did not actually want to sell the state's shareholding in Södra, in fact, it wanted to merge Södra with Assi, NCB and Domänverket. That would have been devastating for forestry farmers in the south of Sweden."
New competition legislation
Another milestone that Lars-Eric remembers is from 1996. This was when the Swedish Competition Authority decided to prohibit Södra's operations.
"A completely absurd story that targeted our timber trading. If we were to avoid breaching competition legislation, we would either have to close the sawmills or to expand and process all saw logs ourselves. In my efforts to get the politicians to rethink the issue, I almost moved in to the parliament building when this was going on. Finally, a new vote was taken by the parliament and a new competition law was passed. This protected Södra and other similar associations."
Ahead of Sweden's entry into the EU, the government wanted forest owners to share in paying the fees to the EU through a separate property tax of 0.5 percent of the taxation value of forestry.
"It was definitely not reasonable for forest owners to be singled out in such a way for taxation," said Lars-Eric. "Each year, this would have been substantial sums of money for our members, but with good arguments, we managed to get the government to withdraw the proposal."
Waited with Mönsterås
It wasn't just about economic policy during Lars-Eric's Chairmanship. Among the strategic long-terms investments he remembers, the expansion of the pulp mill at Mönsterås stands out.
"Despite a considerable pulpwood surplus and a need for increased capacity, we were expecting an economic downturn. Many wanted to start construction, but we held back so that the money would suffice to build an even more competitive plant. In the end, the extension was conducted in two stages, with the first producing a further 100,000 tonnes and the second an additional 200,000 tonnes. In 2000, it was completed and Mönsterås could produce 750,000 tonnes of paper pulp."
Since 2013, Lars-Eric Åström has been Chairman of Bergvik Skog. He also manages his own property in Rejmyre in Östergötland, including forest planting and cleaning.