Indonesia may import timber due to supply shortage
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
May 7, 2007
Indonesia, the world’s largest exporter of tropical timber, may need to import wood from neighbors due to supply shortages caused by a crack down on illegal logging and resource depletion, reports the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).
Indonesia has suffered from rampant illegal logging for much of the past decade, though recent law enforcement efforts appear to be showing some signs of having an effect.
Having to import timber would be a major change for Indonesia, which in recent years has been the world’s largest exporter of tropical timber. It, like Malaysia, has suffered from over-zealous exploitation of forest resources, which has left both countries with excess processing capacity.. Environmental group WWF reports that the two countries have the capacity for about 58.2 million cubic meters of wood per year, yet legal production forests can only supply about 25.4 million cubic meters. The shortfall is made up by illegally harvested timber.
Illegally logged timber is financially attractive to producers due to significantly lower costs. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) found in 2004 that legal wood costs $85 per cubic meter to deliver to the saw mill for large firms, whereas the cost of illegal timber is $32. For small concession holders, the costs are $46 and $5, respectively. It is simply much cheaper to use illegal timber. As WWF put it, “The financial benefits derived from illegal logging are more lucrative than from legal logging.”
Made Subadya, an official from the Ministry of Forestry, said that Indonesia is presently considering China and Malaysia as potential timber suppliers. China is one of the largest exporters of plantation timber.