A socio-economic analysis of french public timber sales

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14 January 2014

This socio-economic study aims to better understand the functioning and the evolution of timber sales held by the French public forest service. The auction system is the historical institution which has been used for timber sales in France for centuries. The recent trend to develop supply contracts through private agreements has a major impact on the French timber industry, which is criticized for its lack of competitiveness. It accurately raises questions about the timber price issue. Indeed, the auction system plays an important role in price setting. We refer to the auction theory literature to examine the features of French timber auctions: first-price sealed-bid sequential auctions of heterogeneous standing timber lots. In particular, we note that seller’s reserve price is kept secret and that, contrary to the general assumption in auction theory, the seller indubitably lacks information about his own reservation value. Finally, the difficulty of defining a “fair market price” remains a central issue in public timber sales.