Global production of wood products registers growth

Governments need to ensure that principles of sustainable forest management are enforced, says forestry expert

By Deepanwita Gita Niyogi
Published: Tuesday 22 December 2015

Wood industries can contribute greatly to national economies if principles of sustainable management of forests are followed
Credit: Jeff Turner/Flickr

In a positive development, the global production of wood products has registered growth since the downturn in 2008-09. The fastest growth has been registered in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to Thaís Linhares-Juvenal, head of Food and Agriculture Organization’s forest economics and statistics team, wood industries can contribute greatly to national economies if principles of sustainable management of forests are followed.

However, he cautioned that governments need to ensure that principles of sustainable forest management are fully enforced and businesses need to commit to responsible sourcing.

“Wood industries that are committed to sustainability can contribute not only with economic growth and general social benefits, but also with conservation of forests as (they) are assets. Good sustainable management plans, adequate capacity at national forest institutions and training to ensure best possible management of forests (can) ensure sustainable forest industries,” Linhares-Juvenal said.

According to a study, in 2011 the forestry sector contributed US $ 606 billion to the global economy.

Wood pellet production registers growth

Production of wood pellets used as fuel by several countries has also set a new record. In 2014, it grew by 16 per cent over the previous year to reach 26 million tonnes. This was mainly driven by increasing consumption in Europe. Europe and North America accounted for almost all global production with 60 per cent and 33 per cent respectively.

In Asia, the production and consumption of wood pellets more than doubled last year when compared to the previous year.

When asked does dependence on wood pellets signal increasing global emissions at a time when countries are trying their best to arrest climate change, Linhares-Juvenal told Down To Earth, “Human-induced global warming is in great part due to the release of carbon emissions. Although combustion of biomass releases roughly as much carbon emissions as fossil fuels, growing trees implies carbon sequestration and the full-cycle assessment may be neutral, depending on the conditions to obtain the biomass and its impact on ecosystems. Sustainably-produced wood pellets are deemed to produce carbon neutral energy.”

The production and consumption of wood-based panels and sawnwood has also witnessed a robust growth.

However, allaying fears of deforestation, the FAO forest economics head said, “Wood products are not necessarily a driver of deforestation. The growth in production of sawnwood and wood-based panels come from wood harvested from natural forest and plantations. It is possible to source wood products from sustainably-harvested natural forests with the adoption of reduced impact logging.”

Wood industry and local communities

Unfortunately, the situation till now is not so where the wood industry always contributes to the wellbeing of forest communities.

But there is good news. Linhares-Juvenal said. “The FRA 2015 reports increased proportion of private ownership and an increase in areas owned by communities between 1990 and 2010. A recent publication on forest business brought up 19 examples of successful forest businesses locally controlled, involving local communities, forestry farmers and indigenous peoples in 14 countries.”

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