History of Zalaerdő

Between 1945 and 1970

In 1945, after the Second World War the large estates were taken into public ownership because of the reform law on estates and lands in Hungary. Within the framework of this process 70% of the forests in Zala County got into the ownership of the state. The Hungarian State Forestry Administration was established on 1st July 1945, which managed the forest authorities established on 19th September 1945.

Establishing MÁLLERD, the Administration of the Hungarian State Forestry Plants, which organised and managed the forestry activities of the country between 1946 and 1949, had an important role in organising state forestry companies. The head of this organisation was Ervin Barlai, forest engineer, the greatest Hungarian forester of that time, who worked for the entails of Duke Esterházy, in Lenti in Zala County in the 1920s and 1930s, for almost two decades.

After MÁLLERD had been terminated, national companies were established from 1st March 1949 and they operated for a little more than one year, for example: the National Company in Zalaegerszeg. Then, from 1st July 1950 – within the Forestry Association – four smaller state forestry companies were established in Zala County, in Zalaegerszeg, in Nagykanizsa, in Bánokszentgyörgy and in Lenti. The state forest authorities were terminated that time and they were replaced by plant units.

Between 1970 and 1992

After another reconstruction, on 1st January 1955 two county forestry companies were established: the North-Zala State Forestry Company with the headquarters in Zalaegerszeg and the South-Zala State Forestry Company with the headquarters in Nagykanizsa.

With the merge of these two forestry companies and of the Plant of the West-Hungarian Saws in Lenti the Forest- and Wood Processing Company in Zala County was established, with their shorter name ZEFAG, on 1st January 1970. Pál Farkas, forest engineer was appointed as a director.

The new, big county forest- and wood processing company managed 59056 hectares of state-owned areas – including 57839 hectares of forest – with the management of the central of their headquarters in Nagykanizsa; their activity involved 13 production forestry companies, 2 technical forestry companies, a wood-processing and a railway company and two wood-processing companies with clear profiles.

The country management and supervision was practiced by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Control through the forestry bureau. The main professional management was practiced by the director and four deputy directors at the ZEFAG. In accordance with the practice of the era political organisations, first and foremost the party organisation, but even the trade unions intervened in the most various questions. It influenced the management of the company in case of determining the salaries of the employees, and of the acceptance of the Collective Agreement. In the autumn of 1974 the senior leadership of the forestry company was modified that way that the formerly tested leadership system of a director and two deputy directors was started to be practiced again.

Pál Farkas, director retired – because of his illness – in 1979 and József Várhelyi was appointed as a director by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Control on 1st August 1979. The control of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Control took until 1985. During this period, namely on 1st January 1984 the Forestry Company in Nagykanizsa was established with the merge of the Northern and Southern Forestry Companies in Nagykanizsa and of the Forestry Company in Zalakomár, with the area of 12 thousand hectares. More companies were merged on 1st January 1985: the Technical Forestry Company in Zalaegerszeg with the Forestry Company in Zalaegerszeg, the Forestry Company in Szentpéterfölde with the Forestry Company in Bánokszentgyörgy, and the Forestry Company in Nova with the Forestry Company in Lenti.

The Decree Nr. 226/1984 of the Presidium brought other changes regarding the leadership and control, which modified the management system of the companies, increased the independence of the companies and the responsibility of the company management at the same time. In accordance with the decree the Forest- and Wood Processing Company of Zala County was classified into companies operating by the general management of the company council. The management and control of the company council did not result any significant changes in the professional and economic activity of the company, however, it is well worth mentioning that the independence of the production forestry companies and plants could increase further. Two awards could prove the successful operation of the company during this period: Outstanding Company and the Great Award of Production given by the Minister of Agriculture and Food Control (1987).

From 1992 to nowadays

In accordance with the Act LIII of 1992 on management of state ownership state-owned companies had be restructured until 31st December 1992. The restructure of the different units was prepared and carried out continuously.
Restructuring the Technical Forestry Company Nagykanizsa the first Ltd of ZEFAG, the Forest Machinery Kanizsa Ltd was established; then restructuring the Technical Department of the Forestry Company in Zalaegerszeg the Forest Machinery Zalaegerszeg Ltd, and restructuring the Maintenance Plant of the Wood-Processing Plant in Lenti the Forest Machinery Lenti Ltd.

The Company Council was terminated in 1992, as the forestry companies were supervised by the State Wealth Agency, ÁVÜ, and later ÁV Inc. The management of their operation was practiced by the ÁVÜ with the agreement of the Minister of Agriculture. Dr József Várhelyi, general director was dismissed from his position by the Minister of Agriculture at the end of June 1992, and Miklós Iványi, Privatisation Commissioner was appointed as the leader of the company. Meanwhile, as a result of the work of the previous leadership, the Saws Ltd along the River Kerka was established from the Wood-Processing Plant in Lenti, the Zala-Veneer Ltd and the Forest Machinery Ltd in Letenye from the Veneer Ltd in Letenye on 1st July 1992. In the beginning of 1993 a new forestry company was established as a result of the measures of the privatisation commissioner. This company was founded with the separation of some forest areas of the Forestry Companies Csömödér, in Bánokszentgyörgy and in Lenti, and merging the Wood-Processing Plant and the Railway Company in Csömödér.

The board meeting of the ÁV Inc. made the decision about the transformation of the Forest- and Wood Processing Company in Zala County into company limited by shares in 1993 and Ottó Feiszt was appointed as a general director of the Zalaerdő Inc. by a public application on 1st September. The commission of the privatisation commissioner was terminated at the same time.

During the period of establishment of companies limited by shares it was disputed by the forestry profession whether profit oriented companies limited by shares can meet the professional requirements. The management of the Zalaerdő Inc. drew a special attention to retaining the professional level and the accurate accomplishment of silviculture activities. They continuously controlled whether the regulations of the plant plan were kept and the afforestation obligation was appropriately accomplished. As a result of the management of the company and the work of the forestry companies the professional indexes improved continually; the professional activity of the Zalaerdő Inc. was appreciated and recognised in the entire country.
Zalaerdő operated with the continuous decrease of the number of the employees, thus, the number of the employees of 3000 at the end of 1970s has decreased to 400 employees nowadays. Selling the Veneer Plant in Letenye (1994), the Sawmills in Csömödér (2000) and in Nagykanizsa (2009) the number of the employees was reduced by 800-900 persons. The activities were outsourced into enterprises; therefore, almost one third of the physical workers continued their work either as entrepreneurs or as employees of enterprises.
The Zalaerdő Inc. was restructured into a private limited company that is PLtd in 2006.

More significant building investments have been implemented in the past one and half decades. Exploring roads have been built, loading areas have been evolved and the office buildings of all forestry companies and of the headquarters have been reconstructed and modernised. The reconstruction works of the hunting houses have been continued and completed.The limited company has spent more and more on the improvement of the IT system every year. The development of the on-site computerised data recording system, which support and help the administrative work of foresters, has been started as well.

Nowadays Zalaerdő PLtd has a great reputation among the forestry limited companies.

The work of the company is appreciated and recognized both by professionals and in our direct environment. Our forests can give people much more than their perfect fertility, therefore, as the significant part of the national wealth, we have to protect, preserve and manage them professionally! The forests in Zala County can have the traces of the work of both professional predecessors and of the professional colleagues nowadays.