Perfect storm brewing for forestry

1 Jun 2010

A perfect storm may be brewing for the forest sector says Forest Owners chief executive David Rhodes. On his return this week from a world forest and wood products conference in Tokyo he said the balance of international supply and demand appeared to be changing in favour of the owners of forest plantations.

"On the supply side, huge areas of natural forest across the globe are being protected in reserves and national parks. Also, international pressure on illegal loggers is finally starting to tell – products from illegally logged and uncertified forests are becoming harder to sell," Mr Rhodes says.

"Meanwhile there is growing consumer demand for products that are renewable and recyclable. Also the ambitiuous bioenergy targets of many countries are driving demand for wood pellets, black liquor and other forest-based fuels."

He says burgeoning populations and a growing middleclass, particularly in China, India and elsewhere in Asia, are driving a rapid growth in demand for food and fibre from a diminishing area of productive land.

"The world population stands at 6.8 billion and is growing by 200,000 a day, with projections that it will peak at 9 billion by 2050. In 1990 there was 7.9 ha of land per inhabitant, in 2050 there will be 1.45 ha.

"Forests and the benefits that flow from them are going to be extremely important in such a world. Also, since most of this growth will be happening in New Zealand’s backyard and in our trading markets, it would appear that forest owners have a very promising future."

Running in parallel with the likely increased demand for forest products is growing recognition of the important role forests play in mitigating climate change.

"The forest and wood processing industries provide solutions which are environmentally friendly, renewable and which ensure sustainable growth. All of which contribute to carbon emission reduction."

The annual meeting of the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations (ICFPA) and the 51st session of the FAO Advisory Committee on Paper and Wood Products (ACPWP) was held in Tokyo, Japan, on 27 and 28 May. Mr Rhodes represents NZ Forest Owners on the ICFPA and also serves on the ACPWP.

Major topics included the role of forestry and wood products in mitigating climate change, the production of renewable energy from forest biomass; increasing costs of energy, land, transport and other key production inputs; water management policy; and efforts to eliminate illegal logging.

Mr Rhodes says ICFPA members including the NZ Forest Owners will continue to remind their national governments and international climate change negotiators that the largest sustained mitigation benefit will come from sustainable forest management strategies that maintain or increase forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest.

In a statement issued following the conference Michael Peter, executive director of Forestry South Africa, said wood is a recyclable and renewable material with a life cycle that doesn’t at harvest. In fact, not only is carbon stored in trees but, once trees are harvested, the end products as well as the replanted areas continue to store carbon.

"Whenever consumers buy sustainably grown wood products, they help the forest industry keep forests vibrant and growing through re-investment and new plantings," Mr Peter said.

For more information please ring David Rhodes, Tel 0274 955 525