Wood security is a step towards autonomy: The Tribune India
FORESTS provide wood for the manufacture of domestic and industrial products. The National Forest Policy (NFP), 1952, predicted that forests would meet the demand for raw materials from the timber industries, while the National Forest Policy of 1988 focused on forest conservation. In the late 1970s and 1980s, in accordance with the recommendations of the National Commission on Agriculture, states implemented externally assisted social forestry projects that not only responded to demand for raw material, but also led to the extension of agroforestry.
According to the State of Forests in India (2019) report, the recorded forest area (RFA) and the area under trees excluding forests (TOF) of India are 76.74 million hectares and 29.38, respectively. million hectares, or 23.3% and 8.9% respectively. , of the geographical area. Important species in rural areas are mango, kikar, eucalyptus, rubber, shisham and poplar. According to The Puzzle of Forest Productivity (2017), the annual timber harvest from forests increased from 10 million cubic meters in the 1970s to 4 million cubic meters in 1990. The landmark Supreme Court ruling in the The Godavarman case (1996) led to a further decline in the production of timber from forests, which is currently around 3 million cubic meters. According to the Tree Outside Forest Resources in India (2020) report, TOF’s annual timber production was 85 million cubic meters in 2020, while 15 million cubic meters of roundwood equivalent (RWE) of timber and products of wood were imported, according to
Sustainable trade in timber and timber products in India (2021).
To meet the demand for large timber, the timber import policy has been liberalized since the 1990s. The total import of roundwood logs and sawn timber was 6 million cubic meters from 2014-2015 to 2019-2020. The four main wood species imported by India are teak, gurjan, meranti and beech, and wood imports come mainly from Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Gabon, Brazil, Panama and New Zealand. India not only imports wood products like plywood, veneer, particle board, fiberboard, pulp and waste paper, newsprint, cardboard and furniture, but also exports most of it. ‘between them, with the exception of pulp and waste paper and newsprint. Exports also include antique furniture, crafts, wooden toys and swings. India’s exports and imports of timber and timber products have shown an increasing trend. However, the value of exports is much lower than that of imports. Timber and wood products worth around Rs 44,119 crore were imported in 2019-20.
Although India strongly supports sustainable forest management, timber and wood products can be imported into India without certification. A study by the International Union of Forestry Research Institutes shows that India accounts for around 10% of the world’s illegal timber trade. Therefore, voluntary certification of wood and wood products can be applied in our country to ensure their international trade smoothly As imported wood may become more expensive in the future due to its increased demand and strict enforcement of the voluntary certification scheme in exporting countries, promoting composite wood panels may be the right long-term strategy.
India has achieved self-sufficiency in the production of small-scale timber, but remains heavily dependent on imported timber due to the shortage of large-scale timber from forests. The central government launched Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan to reduce dependence on imports and encourage the production of local products. To achieve self-sufficiency in the timber sector, the national production of large timber must be improved by harvesting the additional annual yield from the forests. India has sufficient land resources, a favorable climate, technical know-how and manpower to produce large timber; therefore, incentives to plantation companies and industries are needed to attract investment in this sector.
The area of âânational parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India is 16 million hectares, so the area of ââFRG excluding national parks and wildlife sanctuaries is 60.74 million hectares . In accordance with the national work plan code (2014), 10% of RFA can be used for forest production through quality plantations for which around 6 million hectares of forests can be safely reserved for timber production. large size. Degraded forests can be rented from the private sector to raise highly productive plantations through the intensive inputs required and silvicultural operations. Plantations in degraded forests can be financed through the public-private partnership (PPP) model. But environmentalists and the bureaucracy oppose cutting down natural forests and leasing forest land to the private sector; therefore there are not many possibilities to increase the yield of wood from forest land. A safe limit of 2-3 million cubic meters of timber can be targeted.
The government should vigorously promote the production of large timber on agricultural land by providing incentives such as reduced loans, capital grants and tax benefits to plantation companies and industries. Large timber can be produced on 35 million hectares of uncultivated farmer-owned fallow land and current fallow land. Plantation productivity can be higher through quality plants, better silvicultural practices, better land quality and better management. Plantations can be harvested at reduced rotations, which will provide juvenile wood; therefore, intensive research and development efforts are needed to improve their use. The projected annual timber production of 1 million hectares of medium rotation tree plantations such as gamhar, kadam, silver oak, kikar and long rotation trees such as teak and shisham on agricultural land would be 7.4 million cubic meters of timber worth about Rs.55.2 billion and would generate employment of about 13.5 million person-days (author’s estimate).
The focus on the rapid development of plantations and timber industries will not only meet their local demands, but will also help increase their exports. It will be a win-win situation for India as the expansion of this sector will increase the income of farmers, generate employment opportunities for laborers, business opportunities for various stakeholders, improve government income, recover income. currencies and contribute to the conservation of the environment. .
The Indian government is playing a proactive role in promoting investment through a liberal FDI policy in this sector. Recently the government increased import duties on furniture and agarbattis to promote their local manufacture. The national action program for toys will be launched soon. The following policy initiatives are needed to accelerate this process:
- Formulation of a national wood action plan
- Increase investments in degraded forests through a public-private partnership
- Actively promote plantation businesses and industries for large-scale timber production through low-cost loans, capital grants and tax benefits
- Liberalization of the rules on felling and transit permits for agricultural trees
- Establishment of an agroforestry council / mission
- Reduce the goods and services tax on farm timber and wood products
- Export review and import policy to encourage domestic production of timber and timber products
- Comprehensive training and skills development programs to improve the quality of wood products
The author is ex-MD, Haryana Forest Development Corporation
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