BEIJING - Severe winter this year has cost China's forestry sector 57.3 billion yuan (about US$8 billion) in losses and could affect parts of the sector for the next three to five years, the State Forestry Administration (SFA) said here in a news conference on Tuesday.
The worst winter in five decades in some areas damaged 20.86 million hectares of forests, or 10 percent of the total, setting back efforts to meet a national 20-percent forest cover target by 2020, according to the administration.
The weather also damaged 1,781 state-owned forest farms and 1,200 nurseries and killed or injured up to 30,000 protected wild animals, SFA deputy director Zhu Lieke told reporters.
The forest sector had little experience in dealing with such events, Zhu admitted. He said that measures had been adopted to help restore forest farms.
The weather would slash the income of forest farmers this year and have a severe impact on revenue in the coming three to five years, Zhu said. The confidence of forest investors would be dampened.
Subsidies for replanting and loans would be offered to farmers and some fees would be waived, he said.
Timber output in the snow-stricken provinces could be affected for up to five years, said Xiao Xingwei, an SFA official. "Some timber manufacturers may have to close because of a raw material shortage," he said.
However, "China's timber production capability has not been profoundly affected nationwide and timber supply will remain stable in general," Xiao said.
According to the SFA, timber produced from damaged trees might meet the supply demands of some manufacturers in the following one to two years. To offset regional shortages, the government would increase imports in the short term. Meanwhile, the government would increase spending for planting and management of young- and medium-aged forests.