It must be recognised that much of the technology for establishing hardwood plantations in the tropics is available and there exists the will on the part of private investors to invest in hardwoods for short rotations. What is not happening is the transfer of that knowledge and the necessary funds to long rotation crops. Given that the technology exists, one is led to the conclusion that it is long run risk expressed in various ways that is constraining private investment.
The dominance of governments in the establishment of hardwood plantations begs the question - Why are private investors not involved?. To answer this it is suggested that a range of private investors - both current and potential - be surveyed to determine what is preventing them from becoming involved in hardwood plantation establishment. This might identify whether the issues are technical knowledge and skills, inadequate awareness of the opportunities etc. or whether the real reasons are matters like land tenure and security, return on investment and the length of time before any return is generated.
If issues such as land tenure and security, time before a return is received and security are identified as key responses, then the issue needs to be examined more closely to determine how and why investors differentiate between hardwood and softwood plantations that are grown primarily for saw and veneer logs. It appears that there are funds invested in softwoods but not in hardwoods.
When developing proposals for plantations consideration needs to be given to the requirement to even out the demands for labour and hence the work availability for local communities. This is needed to avoid the dislocation and hence antipathy towards a project that creates high demands for short periods followed by little or no demand for labour.
When considering the development of hardwood plantations governments may need to consider their role as one of establishing a resource to be later sold to private investors, rather than trying to attract investors from day one or seeing themselves as the owner of the owner of the resource up to and including processing. This might help to focus the objectives on a more clearly defined set of objectives.
Agencies such as governments and international NGOs can contribute to the success of any hardwood plantation venture by assisting with advice as well as incentives and the like. A considerable body of technical knowledge exists in various formats that could assist investors if it were more readily available. This could help to avoid costly or even disastrous mistakes in species choice, provenance choice, establishment and tending regimes and the like. A similar process of advice and assistance regarding the social and cultural environment the investor is entering will also provide good returns.