A company based in Longtown is helping keep the UK’s forestry industry moving - literally.

Komatsu Forest Ltd, which is based on the Longtown Industrial Estate, supplies machines to the industry for work including harvesting and transporting trees on site.

Originally started in Finland, Komatsu acquired its current name when it was bought by Japanese owners in 2004.

“Wherever you find mechanised professional forestry around the world you will find a company or dealer,” said managing director Per Annemalm.

The site where Komatsu operates was originally a private company founded in the 1980s.

It is now one of around than 10 such offices spread from the Americas, across Europe and Russia to Australia.

The site, which employs 27 people, operates both as a dealer and to maintain and service machines throughout their lifecycle.

The machinery is designed and built in Umea, in northern Sweden, which is also where Per is from.

“Cumbria is a very good location,” said Per, who has been working in the county since November 2018 when he was sent out by the company to work in the UK on a temporary basis.

“Scotland is the biggest UK market for forestry, but also Wales is big and there is quite a lot of business in the rest of England.

“It’s strategically a good market with the M6 motorway so we can reach our customers.

“Normally British people are used to buying forestry products from abroad.”

With the Brexit vote triggering a downturn in the value of Sterling, recent years had been particularly good for the forestry products business.

“In times when the currency rate is weak, the favour is over to the domestic industry and they can compete much better,” said Per.

One of the big drivers of the forest products industry is pulp for paper products, as well as for use in construction and furniture making.

“One of the big areas that has grown is the use of wood in bioenergy,” said Per.

“If we are going to become carbon neutral then forestry is going to play a very, very important role.”

Forestry would also play a vital role in helping the environment in many other ways, he said.

“Anywhere where a piece of wood can replace something that is pumped up from the ground plays an important role,” he said.

“It can be to replace plastic used in furniture or fossil fuels.

“It will have a huge impact.

“The UK has a really good opportunity because the biology for forestry is tremendous.

“In Sweden you would have to wait for a rotation of 80 to 120 years from putting down a plant to cutting, but here they work with a rotation of 30 years.”

He said Komatsu is currently building a new factory in Sweden to help meet demand.

“They have invested a lot in product development so we are rolling out a new range of machines,” he said.

Per is not sure how long he will stay in Cumbria, but has been happy to make it his home since moving to the county.

“I have my wife and two children here as well and it is easy to settle down in Carlisle and we like to take trips down to the Lake District,” he said.

“Carlisle and Umea are quite similar in size and there are other similarities so it was quite easy for us to settle down and get life moving.”