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China's annual timber demand to soar
( 2003-11-03 22:33) (Xinhua)

China has become one of the largest importers of wood with imports of industrial roundwood estimated to reach 100 million cubic meters by 2010, accounting for half of the total annual demand in the country.

The figure was announced at a workshop organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on "China Wood Trade, Market and the Environment" Monday, which attracted over 20 forestry and conservation experts, professionals and officials.

Meanwhile, after a three-year study initiated by WWF, a report titled "China Wood Trade, Market and the Environment" is due to be published in December.

The report said the gap between China's domestic wood supply and growing demand caused China to turn increasingly to other countries to meet its needs.

The Chinese government began to place greater importance on environment conservation in the wake of the devastating Yangtze River flood in 1998.

The Natural Forest Protection Program, and Converting Steep Cultivated Land to Forest and Grassland, two major national conversation programs in China, have resulted in a reduction of industrial wood production.

China produced 105 million cubic meters of round wood equivalent in 1995, compared to 81 million cubic meters in 2001, according to the report.

Forest taxes and fees have limited farmers' enthusiasm for forestry.

Policies to promote economic development, such as construction and residential housing reforms and the western development program, stimulated a much greater demand for wood and wood products.

In order to meet its commitments to the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), China has reduced tariffs and other such barriers to wood imports, which has promoted the development of China's international timber trade.

The total import volume of roundwood was 16 million cubic meters in 2002, 11 times the 1997 figure. China's market for industrial timber, pulp, and paper has now become the second largest in the world after the United States, according to the report.

"As the world's second largest wood importer, China must take full responsibility for global forestry conservation," said Dr. Claude Martin, director general of WWF International at the workshop.

"China's efforts so far in forest restoration and forest sustainable management are a good start," he said.

In order to reduce the negative impact of China's wood products market on the environment while guaranteeing a sustainable supply of forest products, China was advised to strengthen its environmental protection initiatives, promote environmentally sound timber production and the use of wood substitutes, improve the efficiency of wood production, distribution, and use through a licensing and quota system for timber production and harvesting and to promote imports of wood products from well-managed forest resources, and reduce imports of illegally logged timber.

"The WWF will continue to support China's forest conservation program and hopes that China will become a model for promoting the legal timber trade," said Dr. Claude Martin. ®MDNM

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