Mr R.B. Singh, ADG/RR of the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and Ms S. Fezzardi of the EC-Delegation delivered the opening addresses. Mr Singh emphasized the scarcity of reliable information and its importance for decision-making. Ms Fezzardi expressed her appreciation for the organization of the workshop and outlined the support of the EC for regional projects.
The preliminary results of the regional study on forest products and trade conducted by the EC-FAO Partnership Programme were presented and the member countries reported on forest product statistics in their respective countries (Appendix 2).
Ms Ma had prepared a synthesis of the country studies and elaborated the preliminary results of the regional overview of forest product statistics. Because the level of current statistics on forest products in the region varies among countries, countries were grouped into three categories in the synthesis. Regular statistics exist only for some of the important products and at an aggregated level (e.g. roundwood), while data for various product categories (e.g. fibreboards, sawlogs, other industrial roundwood) remain inadequate and are not readily available in most countries. Furthermore, statistics on products derived from plantations and trees outside forests, especially those owned and managed by the private sector or communities, are not captured in most countries. This is a particular problem in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and India, where some industries are becoming increasingly dependent on wood resources from outside government-managed forests. Illegal logging, a major problem in several countries, causes discrepancies in production and trade statistics. Additionally, in many countries data flow from the state/provincial to the national level is slow or non-existent, as forest management is administered at the state/provincial level and there is no proper mechanism that enables the flow of relevant information among different levels.
Group discussions were conducted on the draft synthesis and useful comments were provided by the participants. Both synthesis and national papers will be revised accordingly and published in a separate document.
In addition to the presentation of country papers, there were five thematic presentations by invited speakers in the region dealing with:
Mr Somboon Chuchawal from the Pulp and Paper Association of Thailand presented the private sector’s perspective on the use of information. His presentation generated considerable interest. In Thailand, pulp and paper production is based on wood from private plantations. The production from private plantations is not captured in regular statistics. The association has difficulty in its decision-making because of the poor information on raw materials.
The session contributed mainly to reviewing current forest product statistics at national and regional levels, and the identification of the main weaknesses and constraints concerning forestry statistics.
Mr F. Padovani delivered a series of presentations and training exercises on the importance of forest product statistics, an introduction to the JFSQ, problems in data collection and reporting and the dissemination and use of information. They were integrated with group discussions on problems encountered in completing and using the JFSQ; suggested improvements for the JFSQ; the main problems (and their solutions) for forestry information systems in assessing, disseminating and using wood product statistics as well as hands-on computer training. The computer training focused on retrieving international forest product information from FAOSTAT and the worldwide web (WWW), using compact disks (CDs) and understanding file transfer protocols (FTPs). The participants also learned how to access the online FAOSTAT working system to complete the virtual questionnaire.
During working group discussions, problems were identified and possible solutions for each topic were provided. The session contributed greatly to improving the collaboration between FAO, ITTO and member countries especially with regard to data collection using the JFSQ (see Appendix 3).
Mr S. Johnson provided useful insights into international trade statistics. He introduced the two main international systems for categorizing products: the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) and the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC). He also explained the problems in the completed questionnaires.
The Royal Forest Department of Thailand (RFD) organized two trips to the RFD and its Data Center and the Customs Department and one of its ports.
These trips helped to introduce the participants to the RFD’s forestry information system and the collection and reporting of trade data in Thailand and to gain more practical knowledge on the actual functioning of the information system.
Overall, the workshop was successful. It accomplished all the objectives and realized the outcomes. All of the participants delivered good presentations and joined the training and discussions enthusiastically. The general activities were very rewarding and stimulated the exchange of knowledge and experiences among countries, FAO and ITTO. Furthermore, the workshop provided a useful forum for discussing the problems that statistical correspondents face. The participants expressed their satisfaction with the progress achieved by the workshop.
At the end of the workshop, the national statistical correspondents agreed in principle that they will be responsible for completing and returning the JFSQs to FAO or ITTO punctually. They will also be responsible for providing FAO with updated information on forestry activities in their respective countries.
The workshop was instrumental in establishing the network of national statistical correspondents and in making the network operational (Appendix 4).
The participants from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and India recommended that FAO should organize national workshops focusing on creating and enhancing partnerships in collecting and reporting country data.
The participants also recommended that this kind of workshop should be organized regularly (e.g. once every two years) to fortify national and international statistics on forest products.
The FAO team offers its sincere thanks to the Royal Forestry Department of Thailand for organizing its visits. Furthermore, the FAO team appreciates the valuable inputs from all of the participants that contributed to the workshop’s success.