On the timber trail

Published: Sunday 31 July 1994

-- The Union ministry of environment and forests (MEF) is on the timber trail. It has commissioned a study on the prospects of marketing forestry produce and is likely to allow export of plantation timber, after identifying the timber species on the basis of the study.

Some officials within the ministry are, however, apprehensive about the policy change. They say that issuing export permits for one type of log might lead to illegal exports of banned logs as well. Critics say that a realistic appraisal of farm forestry's support to industry is needed before rushing in to open up the forest land to the industry or allowing timber exports. Industrialists have nevertheless already made requests for permission to export surplus timber from their plantations. The forerunner amongst them, WIMCO Ltd, wants to export 50,000 cubic metres of poplar logs grown under their farm forestry project.

The success of WIMCO's project experience, however, disproves industry's claim that farm forestry cannot be a reliable source of raw material and that forest land is thus needed for their plantations. Between 1984 and 1993 the area planted under the project has gone up from 580 ha to 3820 ha. The company nevertheless claims that it has been forced to plant only 20 lakh trees per year to prevent supply from overshooting the current level of demand.

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