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Welcome arrow Articles arrow Miscellaneous arrow Cannot see the wood for the trees
Cannot see the wood for the trees PDF Print E-mail

Since the 1970s, the rapid depletion of timber stocks in the Philippines has led to a shift in emphasis from timber harvesting and utilisation to protection, development and conservation of forest land. The Master Plan for Forestry Development outlines general goals of conserving forest ecosystems and genetic resources, whilst meeting peoples needs for forestry products in a sustainable manner, and promoting social justice.

A Community Based Forest Management (CBFM) programme is in place to provide more equitable distribution of opportunities, income and wealth to local people. The programme allocates tracts of state forest to communities to manage. Community rights and responsibilities are agreed with the government through a CBFM agreement.

Deforestation and land degradation are serious problems, caused by decades of intensive logging, agricultural expansion, inequitable land distribution and failed policies. The government established more than 270 protected areas, encompassing more than 4.2million ha, and forest conservation areas now cover an estimated 2.7million ha. Logging is banned in old growth forests and on steeply sloping areas, but a recent FAO study concluded that the government is struggling to implement this.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recognises that combating illegal logging requires strengthening forest protection measures and law enforcement efforts, and monitoring the activities of illegal forest occupants. The CBFM programme tries to engage illegal loggers in forest protection measures.

In May 2008 the government instructed all governors to intensify efforts to combat illegal logging and to arrest and charge illegal loggers in their provinces, and in June 2008 shut down 60 illegal mini sawmills. Representatives from NGOs and churches have called for more action against the loggers. However, there have been suggestions that some regional authorities are complicit in illegal logging operations.



800 Timber

500 Glencore


Cannot see the wood for the trees?


Timber is a unique natural resource. Unlike other commodities such as various metals or oil, it replenishes itself. Unlike agricultural products, which have an annual production cycle, timber production cycles last up to 100 years. But timber is an incredibly versatile material: it is used in construction, for furniture, for display purposes - think picture frames - for flooring, for boats, in cars, and for a variety of decorative purposes.  And of course, for fuel in many parts of the world.

In terms of timber and wood products' exports, Canada is firmly No. 1, while in descending order, next come Chile, Malaysia and Vietnam; as diverse range of climates and cultures as you could ever imagine.

Canada, though, has been in dispute with its neighbour, the United States of America, over alleged timber subsidies from the Canadian government. This is one of the most enduring trade disputes in recent history, affecting primarily British Columbia, the major exporter of softwood to the United States.

The US claims that the Canadian timber industry is substantially subsidised by both the provincial and federal governments.  The Canadian government denies that subsidies are provided, citing the fact that as timber is supplied to a multitude of industries, the U.S. cannot invoke its so-called ‘trade remedy' law which applies an additional tax to any product or products believed to be unfairly subsidised.

Since 1982, there have been four occasions on which the dispute has flared up.  The first such occasion was when the US petitioned its own Department of Commerce to intervene.  The DOC could not find evidence that Canada's system was specific to any one industry and dismissed the demand.

In 1986, the US again petitioned the Department of Commerce and this time the DOC did find that the Canadian forest industry was unfairly subsidised and imposed an additional levy of 1.5%. At the time Canada and the United States signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).  The third occasion the row surfaced was in 1991 when Canada informed its neighbour it was withdrawing from the MOU, but still the DOC imposed additional duty on timber products from Canada.

In 1996, the United States and Canada reached an agreement: the Softwood Lumber Agreement.  Under this agreement, Canadian lumber exports to the United States were limited to 14.7 billion board feet (approximately 34 million cubic metres) per annum.


European Community

The EU is endeavouring to stop illegal lagging within its borders. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas says: "Forests are home to half of all known species. When forests disappear, so does a vast array of plants and species, with disastrous and irreversible consequences. These precious resources also play a vital role in regulating climate change. Developed and developing nations must unite to protect the world's remaining forests. We must also send a firm message to timber suppliers that illegal timber or timber products will not be tolerated on the EU market." The European Commission is proposing a regulation to minimise the risk of illegally harvested timber and timber products being placed on the European market. The proposed regulation will make it an obligation for traders to seek sufficient guarantees that the timber and timber products they sell have been harvested according to the relevant laws of the country of origin.

The Commission proposes to work at international negotiations on climate change towards the development of a Global Forest Carbon Mechanism through which developing countries would be rewarded for emissions reductions achieved by taking action to reduce deforestation. This indicates that at EU level an appropriate level of funding is required from 2013 to 2020 to fight deforestation. The total amount of funding will depend on the level of mitigation actions undertaken by developing countries.



It is estimated that China's imported timber demand will exceed 100 million cubic metres this year; about half the country's annual consumption.

According to Zhang Jianlong, deputy administrator of the State Forestry Administration, China's total timber consumption increased from 457 million cu. m in 2009 to 477 million cu. m. last year, and the demand for timber imports for domestic consumption will grow from 100 million cu. m to 150 million cu. m. in 2011. Zhang Jianlong pointed out that the farming need for timber cannot be met only by importing more. It is urgent to promote domestic timber supply, allocate land areas for wood and timber production and improve forest management.

According to the recent national forest inventory, China's total forest cover is 1.9 billion hectares accounting for 20 per cent of the total land area, with a 13.7 billion cu. m. standing wood stock volume. China's total area of plantation is the highest in the world, making up 38 per cent of the global total. In recent years, China's forest resources have been increasing due to large scale reforestation efforts, conversion of agricultural land to forests and through the implementation of the Natural Forest Protection Programme.

According to the statistics from Shandong Forestry Bureau, some 17 forestry enterprises from the province have been setting up businesses in foreign countries for logging, timber processing and establishing forest plantations. These enterprises have rented or bought a total of 3.5 million hectares of forests with 400 million cu. m. of standing wood stock, which is four times more than the total provincial forest resources.

Zaozhuang Mining Industry Group invested US$ 200 million to buy forests with 1.6 million cu. m. of standing wood stock in Canada and to build a downstream processing base in Rizhao City. Yangxin Eurasia Woodwork rented a forest area with 1.2 million cu. m. of standing wood stock while Yantai Northwest Forestry rented forest area with 45,000 cu. m, both in Russia. In Gabon, Shangdong Longsheng acquired a concession with 450,000 cu. m. of standing wood stock. Shandong Sun Paper rented forests with a total of 99,900 cu. m. standing stock from south-east Asian countries such as Laos to initiate pulp and paper production.

According to the statistics, in the first half of 2010 wood-based panel imports from Thailand that passed through Ningbo Port were 60,000 cu. m., worth US$ 21 million. Thailand tripled its wood-based panel exports over the same period in 2009, making up 38 per cent of the total wood-based panel imports through Ningbo.


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© 2019 Jeff Heselwood. All rights reserved.
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