China extends commercial logging bans; wood imports expected to climb by 95 million m3/yr

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China will push forward its Natural Forest Protection Program and phase out all commercial logging of natural forests by 2017. Zhang Jianglong, deputy director of China's State Forestry Administration, said that a logging ban is already active in some of the country's key areas, especially in three northeastern provinces. 

The Chinese official said that the ban will be extended to all state-owned forests next year, and logging on privately owned land will be ceased by the end of 2017. These bans will reduce timber output by 50 million cubic meters per year, the equivalent of 30 percent of logs, Zhang said.

It seems that in Northeast China, about 4 million cubic meters of natural forests have survived commercial logging since a ban on key state-owned forest areas took effect.

China has at the moment 198 million hectares of natural forests, of which 127 million hectares have been put under the administration of reservations since the launch of the Natural Forest Protection Program in 1998.

To offset the effects of the ban, China planned 14 million hectares of strategic timber reserves, most of them located in the southern parts of the country. In five to eight years, China might increase timber supply by 95 million cubic meters, to fill the gap after the ban on commercial logging.

However, by 2020, it is estimated that over 40 percent of China's wood demand will still have to be met by imports.

China is the world's largest importer and second largest consumer of wood, with annual wood consumption amounting to nearly 500 million cubic meters. The country's wood imports now stand at 20 million cubic meters per year.

Zhang said China produces 70 to 80 percent of the world's wood furniture and half of its wood products, including particle board and fiberboard, but this cannot continue. "Our ecosystem has become so bad that it is no longer sustainable for China to continue serving as a world factory for wood products," he said.

China is the world's biggest importer of timber imports and is second in consumption, using about 500 million cubic meters a year. Its timber imports jumped from 4 million cubic meters per year before 1998 to the current level of 20 million cubic meters.

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