Forecasts of the future supply and demand for wood and wood products are an important aid to planning and decision making in the forestry sector. Consequently, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) carries out periodic reviews of global forest product markets in order to produce supply and demand forecasts. The current Global Forest Products Outlook Study (GFPOS) includes the production of medium-term projections of forest products supply and demand using the Global Forest Products Model (GFPM), plus specific reviews of developments in forest plantations, fuelwood, trees outside of forests, and technology change.
The results of the global supply and demand analysis suggest that demand for wood will continue to increase for the foreseeable future, due to continued increases in population and income. However, during the past thirty years, natural forest resources have declined in a number of countries (particularly in the area of natural forest available for wood supply) and this trend is expected to continue in the future. This suggests that increases in future demand will have to be supplied from a diminishing, or more restricted, forest resource base. In other words, as forests are cleared, degraded, or withdrawn from production, the burden placed on the remaining forests to produce wood will increase commensurately.
Theoretical economic principles suggest that the price mechanism will lead to forest areas and levels of production that are "efficient" in terms of the production of marketed or commercial outputs. However, due to market failures, often exacerbated by failures in policies and institutions, it is unlikely that markets will result in levels of forest cover and roundwood production that are "economically efficient" in the widest sense.2 Therefore, forestry policymakers have proposed a number of measures to correct for such failures. A particular concern has been to prevent further deforestation and degradation (especially in tropical forests), while enabling continuity in supplies of forest products.
On the demand side, policymakers have suggested measures such as: population policies; consumer awareness campaigns; the creation of new markets for previously unmarketed goods and services; trade restrictions; and certification schemes. Supply-side measures, which generally focus on utilising existing resources (including forests, other land, wood and non-wood fibre resources) more efficiently, have also been proposed. The main supply-orientated proposals include: increasing rates of recycling; improving the utilisation of wood residues; improving conversion rates in wood processing; implementing better harvesting methodologies and techniques; and intensifying forest management. A good example of the latter is the establishment of forest plantations.
Given these trends and the likely outlook for forest products supply and demand and for forest resources, there has been an increased interest in the establishment of forest plantations in recent years. Forest plantations can alleviate potential future wood shortages and provide continuity of supply for existing industrial enterprises and household fuelwood needs. However, despite this interest, information is scarce (at least in the public domain) about forest plantation resources at the national level. Furthermore, forestry policymakers, particularly in the international sphere, are forced to set policy in what is largely a quantitative vacuum. Not only is much of the basic national forest inventory data (e.g. area, age-class, increment, species and yield) incomplete, inaccurate, obsolete or otherwise unreliable in many countries, but many of the other key variables (e.g. the impacts on roundwood production of intensified management regimes, genetic gains, and technological or methodological improvements) remain unmeasured or unreported. In particular, information about qualitative changes in forest resources and wood and fibre production potential remains particularly elusive.
The overall aim of this study is to fill some of these gaps in information and analysis. Specifically, it will contribute to the supply-side analysis within the GFPOS and contribute to FAO's programme of work to update and improve forest resource statistics more generally. With plantations taking an increasingly important role in meeting global wood supplies, this study will also contribute to the body of knowledge that supports the Global Forestry Information System, the biennial State of the World's Forests report and the periodic reports carried out within the framework of the Forest Resource Assessment 2000 (FRA 2000).
A concerted effort is currently underway to systematically update and upgrade FAO's database on forest plantations. As a contribution to this effort, a tropical forest plantation study by Pandey (1997) has investigated area and species distribution and a related database and modelling project by Leech (1998) has examined tropical forest plantation increments and yields. A set of tropical hardwood plantation case studies in selected developing countries has also been commissioned under an FAO Trust Fund Project supported by the United Kingdom: Timber production from hardwood plantations in the tropics and sub-tropics (GCP/INT/628/UK).
In the temperate and boreal forest zones, forest plantation area statistics for most countries have already been updated as part of the temperate and boreal component of FRA 2000.3 This activity has been a joint effort of the UNECE and FAO offices in Geneva (UN, 2000).
The overall process of refining and analysing information about forest plantations is necessarily stepwise, involving data collation, expert review, national validation and final compilation. As part of this process, a specific plantation expert meeting was convened in Rome during July 1998 (as part of project GCP/INT/628/UK) to review the preliminary data for tropical countries. Similarly, a series of regional workshops to validate national forestry data for African countries, including data for forest plantations, were started in late-1998 (with the support of DGVIII of the European Commission). More workshops will be held for other tropical countries in the near future. The data already collected in the temperate and boreal forest zone has also been thoroughly checked and evaluated by the Joint FAO-UNECE Working Party on Forest Economics and Statistics.
The collection and refinement of all this information is an ongoing process. It is therefore, inevitable that most of the data used in this modelling exercise can only be considered as provisional or indicative. However, despite the provisional nature of much of the data, the analysis can still identify important trends and implications and can be used to monitor progress in the area of global forest plantation statistics. Indeed, this is another major objective of studies such as the GFPOS.
The main objectives of this study are to examine three important aspects of forest plantation development, namely:
· the current status and future (medium-term) trends in forest plantation establishment;
· economic and policy issues associated with forest plantation establishment; and
· the outlook for potential wood supplies from forest plantations.
In examining the contribution that forest plantations can make to future wood supplies, it focuses on economic aspects of forest plantation wood supply. This includes modelling the current and future yields from forest plantations and examining (and, where possible, quantifying) economic and policy dimensions that are likely to have an impact on future patterns of forest plantation establishment.
It should be noted, however, that this is not a comprehensive study of all aspects of forest plantation establishment and development. For example, it does not investigate in any detail the scientific, management, social or environmental aspects of forest plantations, except where these might have an impact on future wood supply. The study does, though, examine current and likely future environmental and social policies, where they have strong forest plantation development dimensions. These may be particularly important in the context of incentive structures and in the development of climate change-related instruments affecting forest plantations.
In attempting a global-level analysis it is acknowledged that, given the absence of important data in some countries and the consequent need to make a broad range of assumptions, the assessment is at best a "ballpark analysis". That is to say, the assessment aims to provide an indicative order of magnitude in the results rather than any definitive prediction. Similarly, it is beyond the scope of the study to examine specific policy and economic parameters, individually, for all countries. Rather, the objective is to provide a broad cross-section of examples that describe the range of options presently in force and, where possible, to describe developing global trends.
This report is in three main sections. The first section discusses the data collected on forest plantation areas, the process used to check this data and elaborate on important aspects such as forest plantation age-structure and yield. It presents historical trends in forest plantation area along with a detailed description of forest plantation areas in 1995, by species, country, region and split into broad age-classes. It also presents an estimate of current roundwood production potential from forest plantations.
The next section discusses the most important economic and policy issues affecting forest plantation development in the past and in the future. This section is mostly theoretical, but uses a wide range of examples from a number of countries to highlight specific points.
The final section presents projections of future potential roundwood supply (to 2050) by forest type and by region, under three alternative scenarios for future forest plantation development. The projections for industrial roundwood potential are compared with extrapolations of possible future levels of total industrial roundwood production and consumption to determine the overall contribution that forest plantations might make to future supply and demand.
2 i.e. taking into account social and environmental costs and benefits.
3 Countries that have already supplied this information are: member countries of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) - United States of America; Canada; and all European countries (including the countries of the former USSR), plus: Japan; Australia; and New Zealand.