China and Asia-Pacific region leading recovery in forest products industry – UN agency

FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry Eduardo Rojas-Briales. Photo: FAO/Giulio Napolitano

18 December 2012 – The global forest products industry is slowly recovering from the economic crisis, with the Asia-Pacific region and particularly China taking the lead, according to new data published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

On average, global production of the main forest products grew by one to four per cent in 2011 compared to 2010, FAO stated in a news release. Production of wood-based panels and paper in 2011, for example, was above the pre-crisis levels of 2007 and appears to be growing relatively strong in most regions.

Currently FAO’s forest product statistics database contains 1.2 million entries, covering production and trade of 52 products, 21 product groups and 245 countries and territories. The free online database now contains statistics for the last 50 years.

“The FAO database provides the world’s most comprehensive and internationally comparable statistics for forest products, a crucial tool for making policy and investment decisions,” said FAO’s Assistant Director-General for Forestry, Eduardo Rojas-Briales.

The agency pointed out that China is increasing its importance as a producer of forest products, becoming the world’s second largest producer of sawnwood – which encompasses planks, beams and boards – after the United States, and having overtaken Canada.

China has also increased its lead over all other countries as a producer of wood-based panels, paper and paperboard. In 2011, China produced 11 per cent of the world’s sawnwood, 38 per cent of its panels and 26 per cent of its paper.

China is also playing a key role in international trade in forest products, being the largest importer of industrial roundwood, sawnwood, pulp and wastepaper and the largest exporter of wood-based panels.

The country is also the fifth largest importer of paper and paperboard, despite a huge increase in domestic production since 2007. In 2011, China’s imports of all forest products amounted to $43 billion and account now for 16 per cent of the global total.

In Russia, the largest forest country in the world, the structure of production and trade has changed in the last five years, with a decline in industrial roundwood exports by nearly 60 per cent and an increase in sawnwood production by 8 per cent. Over the same period, Russia has increased its sawnwood exports by 13 per cent.

FAO noted that a high proportion of Russian industrial roundwood exports previously went to China, but the amount fell from 2007 to 2009 due to log export restrictions in Russia. Chinese imports of industrial roundwood have recovered though and some other major producing countries, including the US, Canada and New Zealand, have expanded exports to China.

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