Wood Import: NGOs caution for enormous costs for both humans and the environment

by Anett Keller

Berlin- China's fast economy growth results in extreme demand increases on the world market for wood. The 'wood workshop of the world' produces a third of the worldwide furniture. Chinahas long been unable to cover the demand of industrial wood with its own production: in 2005 it imported 143 million cubic meters of wood—three times as much as in 1997. Experts expect this number to have doubled in 2013.

Three quarters of the felled trees Chinaimports some out of the Asian-Pacific. According to a 2006 study of Forest Trend and the Center for International Forestry Research (Cifor) more than 50 percent of China's import comes from Indonesia, Papua New Guineaand Burma. Over 40 percent of the Russian wood export also goes to China.

NGOs have long pointed to the enormous costs for humanity and for the environment that the Chinese hunger for wood involves. Recently the plans of Pekingto acquire some 800,000 cubic meters of Indonesian Merbau wood for the Olympic plays renewed the unrest. New Guineais the only place where the dark red tropical wood still grows in the tropical forest.

Chinaplans, especially because of the Olympic building plans, to invest a billion US dollars in a wood saw-mill in the Indonesian part of West Papua. The statements of Indonesian politicians in which they claim to engage more in sustainable forestry do not give the environment activists much hope. According to the State of the World's Forests Report by UN organization FAO, Indonesia cuts down around 1,8 million hectares of forest grounds each year—that means a piece of land the size of five soccer fields is being emptied every minute, 80% of this illegally.

Besides the wood and paper usage, the demand for palm oil drives up the deforestation. Here too, Chinais a leading investor. From the 12 billion US dollars of foreign investments that will go to the plantations and biodiesel production sites in the coming years, 5.5 billion comes from the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).

Just a few industrial states make up the majority of wood products importers—headed by the EU and the USA. According to a study of Forest Trends and Cifor, the import of finished wooden products has increased with 1000 percent over the last years, In the EU, the increase was equal to 80 percent. Consequently and justly, Greenpeace referred to the EU consumption demand when it presented a report on China's role in the illegal wood trade. In the end a German consumes with 234 kg a year almost seven times as much paper as a Chinese.

Source: West Papua Netzwerk