Meeting China’s Demands for Imported Wood and Wood Fibre
China has developed a large, flourishing and rapidly modernising wood and wood fibre industry. China consumes an estimated 365 million m3 (roundwood equivalent) of wood and wood fibre annually and relies heavily upon imports. These imports increased nearly 10-fold between 1996 and 2004 to 106 million m3, making China the world’s largest importer of forest and wood products. As China enjoys substantial economic growth, buoyant housing construction and improving living standards, it is likely that imports will continue to expand. Wood and wood fibre imports for 2010 are estimated to be about 120 million m3. This growth offers opportunities and challenges for suppliers of raw materials and services. The high demand for wood has resulted in unscrupulous suppliers trading logs from illegal sources, and this trade has become a small but contentious part of China’s wood supply. The illegal logging which this trade fosters functions through a web of interrelated networks of corrupt local authorities, operators and loggers, banks willing to provide and launder money, shipping companies, customs agencies, manufacturers and an undiscriminating and greedy market. Illegal logging is condemned by the legitimate wood industry. China has the world’s largest plantation forestry estate totalling some 53 million ha and has an ambitious plantation program to establish 13 million ha of fast-growing high-yielding plantations by 2015. There are divergent opinions as to whether China will become self-sufficient in wood in the long term; the main body of independent opinion suggests that imports will remain a strong feature of the industry. Experience gained through meeting China’s wood demands offers the opportunity to be better prepared for the impacts that India will undoubtedly have on regional supplies of wood and wood fibre. India’s GDP is growing strongly at 8.5% annually, and it is expected that her population will exceed that of China by 2030. It is inevitable that wood, paper and board consumption will increase from a very low base. As forests and their products increasingly improve the livelihoods of millions of people in China and India, and provide benefits to their trading partners, the implications of this development extend to many parts of the world, including Australia.
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