Western consumption 'causes forest shrinkage'

By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-05-09 07:02

Western consumption, and not China's timber trade, is to blame for the depletion of the world's tropical forest resources, according to a recent report.

Rethink China's Outward Investment Flows, compiled by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), said most of the natural resources imported to China are re-exported in the form of value-added inputs or final products.

More than 70 percent of imported timber is processed into furniture and exported to the United States and European Union countries.

When searching for reasons behind shrinking forests, "we should be careful and we should always look at the final destination", said Dennis Pamlin, a global policy advisor of WWF Sweden, who is co-author of the report.

"Or it gives an incomplete picture and can contribute to a situation where China is seen as the problem, when the main problem is Western consumption patterns," Pamlin said yesterday.

A recent report in the UK's Sunday Times said as the world's largest importer of both soft and hard wood, China has pushed up prices of wooden commodities in Britain.

Zhu Guangqian, director of the China Timber Distribution Association, said it is wrong and unfair to blame China for timber shortages on the world market.

China is the largest supplier of timber products globally.

"About a third of our timber product exports go to the United States, and a significant percentage to European countries,"he said.

Last year, China's timber exports totalled $14.5 billion, more than double the imports of around $6.5 billion.

About 60 percent of Chinese imports, mostly softwood, are from Russia where 200 million cubic meters were felled last year compared with 600 to 700 million cubic meters of new trees.

China imported 6 to 7 million cubic meters of hardwood last year, or 1 to 2 per cent of the overall felling in tropical forests around the world.

Besides, Zhu said about 80 to 90 percent of forest diminution in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia is a result of conversion of rain forests into farmland.

"It is a matter of management of rainforests. These countries should strengthen efforts to encourage tree-planting and protection."

(China Daily 05/09/2007 page1)

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