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National forest products statistics, Bhutan



Of the total country area (40 075 km2), 2.9 million ha has forest cover. Of the total forest area about 1.9 million ha are not used for timber production due to its classification as either: (i) forest within Protected Areas, National Parks or Wildlife Sanctuaries, (ii) steep land or buffer zones, or (iii) scrub forest not ready for timber production. Details are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Forest area restricted for timber production

Forest category

Forest areas (ha)

% of total forest area

Protected Area System

846 054


> 4 000 meters above sea level

218 738


Steep areas

819 055


Road buffers

18 482


River buffers

8 013


Scrub forest

36 381



1 946 723


Source: FRDD, 2002

Total production forest area is approximately 982 362 ha and at present about 169 991 ha have been brought under approved FMU management plans (5.8 percent of the total forest area). However, timber production is technically and economically feasible, under the FMUs system, in about 409 564 ha. The balance of 572 798 ha could only be brought under the FMU system with high investment or inputs. The forests concerned either have low production potential, are small areas, or areas that require large investment in access roads. The potential cost of timber from such areas would therefore be higher than from existing FMUs.

The estimated Annual Allowable Cut for Bhutan is about 35 million cft (1 million m3). From the 5.8 percent of the production forest area under the FMU system, about 5.8 million cft, standing volume, is prescribed for harvesting per annum. However, due to harvesting losses and extraction constraints, average production in 1999 and 2000 were 2.4 million and 2.3 million cft respectively.

The total area of plantation to date as given by the Social Forestry and Afforestation Division (Table 2). Forestry plantation information is periodically evaluated at the Dzongkhag and National level to provide planning guidance and to assess the effectiveness of the plantation program.

Table 2. Plantation area by type


Area (acres)

Normal plantations

40 209

Plantation created by FDCL

1 818

Industrial plantations

3 810

Community plantations



46 267

Wood-based industries

In Bhutan, wood-based industries are still at an early stage of development (Anon, 2001). They are mainly small-scale industries, comprising ~56 sawmills, 60 furniture-workshops, one large veneer/particle board firm. Products include broom handles, fruit boxes, veneer, plywood and block board and wooden handicrafts. Owing to limitations in the transport infrastructure, cost of timber transportation between Dzongkhags is high and therefore timber is mostly processed in its area of origin, i.e. hardwood in hardwood areas, softwood in softwood areas.

The ninth five-year Development Plan emphasises sustainable forest management for the dual purposes of conserving environmental resources and supplying wood to the domestic market. The Timber Marketing and Pricing Policy (RGOB, 2002) also emphasises that (i) urban, commercial and industrial sectors can access timber through open auctions; (ii) prices are determined by market forces and (iii) the export of logs, sawnwood and fuelwood is banned unless lots remain unsold after three consecutive auctions, in which case FDCL may auction timber internationally.

Organisation of the Department of Forestry Services

The Department of Forestry Services is headed by a director who is assisted in technical matters by four functional divisions at headquarters, these are: (i) Forest Resources Development Division (ii) Nature Conservation Division (iii) Forest Protection and Utilisation Division, and (iv) Social Forestry Division.

Territorial Divisional Forest Officers, (DFOs) are responsible for carrying out forestry sub-sector development at the district level. They are also responsible for overseeing and supervising work in the Forest Management Units (FMUs) and are directly responsible to the Head of DoFS in all administrative matters. Dzongkhag (district) forestry offices are responsible for promoting and implementing the social, community and private forestry program. These offices also carry out extension work in the Dzongkhags for the DoFS.

Forest Development Corporation, Limited (FDCL), an autonomous corporation, deals with all timber production and marketing activities. Production of timber is guided by forest management plans prepared by the Forest Resources Development Division of the Department of Forestry Services. FDLC is directly responsible to its Management Board, which includes as one of its members, the directors of the DoFS. The present set up of the DoFS is given in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Organisation set-up of the Department of Forestry Services


Present flow of information in DoFS

Within the Department of Forestry Services, the data are collected by various divisions and projects. The sources and flows of data are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Data and information sources and users associated with DoFS

The field offices of DoFS collect information from (i) FMUs (ii) forest areas presently outside the FMUs (iii) National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries and (iv) people involved in community and social forestry programs. Data comprising timber production from FMUs and timber sales are also received from FDLC. From DoFS, the information is passed to the Ministry of Agriculture and other interested organisations. The flows of information are shown in Figure3.

Past data collection efforts

Data concerning forests and forest products are generally collected by the Department of Forestry Services (DoFS) in the form of quarterly progress reports. As a result of delays in data collection at the field offices, final compilation of data may be well behind schedule and difficulties are also encountered with data entry at DoFS and mistakes are often made.

In forestry, database management is crucial to ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of forest resources. The type of data gathered differs amongst the functional and territorial divisions of the Department of Forestry Services depending on their functions and responsibilities.

The current users of wood production and trade information include:

Figure 3. Present flows of forestry information

Potential users of information include the following institutions:

Existing forest and forest products data

The following four sub-sections detail the different types of data available in the Department of Forest Services.

Rural timber supply

Data concerning rural timber supplies comprise the following:

These data are collected by the territorial Divisional Forest Officers on the basis of the permits and quantities they supply and are submitted to the DoFS head office in Thimphu on a quarterly basis. The quarterly reports sent by the various divisions are entered into computer files and compiled for the whole department at the end of each year. The volume of timber supplied for rural use is calculated from the number of trees using a conversion factor. This creates some compilation difficulties and also does not allow exact assessment of the annual quantity of timber supplied.

Timber production and sale

The following data are collected on timber production and sale:

Roundwood production

Although policy allowing timber production from community and private forests has been issued, as detailed below, all present supply is from Government Forests Reserves (i.e. forest areas within and presently outside the FMU system). Commercial roundwood (sawlogs) is supplied from FMU areas exclusively by the FDCL, whereas other, non-commercial, roundwood is supplied under supervision of the Territorial Divisions of the DoFS from areas currently outside the FMU system (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Production and supply of roundwood

Timber produced by FDCL is sold at open auction to wood-based industries, urban Government construction utilities and other consumers. Small quantity of timber produced by FDCL’s is also supplied at a subsidised rate for rural construction with FDCL providing the subsidy themselves.

Non-commercial roundwood is approved by Dzongkhag administrations, in close collaboration with the Territorial Divisions, and fulfils the Government’s obligation to supply rural people with subsidised timber for house construction (Forest and Nature Conservation Rules, 2000). Supplies are either in the form of standing trees, logs from FDCL’s depots or sawnwood, if available. Fuelwood is also produced through the territorial divisions for both rural and urban supply. Construction timber for Government or donor-funded projects in remote areas is supplied in the form of standing trees and processing is carried out by the agency concerned. Royalties at the commercial rate are collected by the DoFS Territorial Divisions.

Total roundwood production increased by 12 percent between 1999 and 2000 as a result of increased woodfuel production (Table 3). Excluding sawlogs, another 5.81 million cft of roundwood, including 3.34 million cft of woodfuel, was harvested from forest presently outside the FMUs.

Table 3. Total national roundwood production

Product aggregate

Production (cft)




2 372 707

2 269 507

Industrial roundwood excluding sawlogs

2 545 786

2 467 565

Industrial roundwood

4 918 493

4 737 072


2 267 300

3 340 712

Total roundwood

7 185 793

8 077 784

Source: DoFS, 1999 and 2000 & FDCL, 1999 and 2000.

Production from Community/Private Forestry

Policy allowing community and private forestry has been in existence since 2000 and government supports application from interested parties. To date, more than 800 ha of forest with approved management plans have been handed over to communities. As these programmes have only recently begun there is as yet no production of timber/wood from community or private forestry.

Market Price, Commercial Royalty and Rural Royalty

As outlined above timber is supplied in three main ways: (i) rural supply, (ii) remote location supply and (iii) through open auction. For rural supply, timber is subsidised for rural house construction and the rural royalty rate applies, whereas for remote location supply, where standing trees are used for Government or project construction, the commercial royalty rate applies.

The market price of round timber is equal to auction price having been fixed by FDCL on the basis of:

The ‘commercial royalty’ is the only royalty component and varies according to tree girth and whether timber is in log form or standing. With sawn timber for urban or industrial use, the sawmills determine selling price on the basis of market forces and, as no royalty is paid, FDCL do not intervene. If, however, sawmills supply rural people a subsidised royalty applies as per the schedule shown in Table 4.

The rural, or subsidised royalty rate varies according to tree size and whether hard or softwood. It is applied for a given number of trees/volume of timber as detailed in Forest and Nature Conservation Rules, 2000. Above this entitlement, the commercial royalty rate must be paid for standing timber and sawnwood must be obtained in the open market. Details are given in Table 4.

Table 4. Subsidised royalty rate for rural construction




Rate (Ngultrum)


Sawnwood volume (cft)

2000 cft

Nu. 1.00 per cft

Softwood species (standing)

Drashing trees

4' 1" & above

4 trees

Nu. 40/tree

Tree for shingles

6 trees

Nu. 40/tree

Cham-sized tree

2' to 4'

80 trees

Nu. 30/tree

Tsim-sized tree

1' 2'

80 trees

Nu. 12/tree


Below 1'

100 trees

Nu. 4/tree

Hardwood species (standing)

Drashing tree

4' 1" & above

4 trees

Nu. 120/tree

Tree for shingles

6 trees

Nu. 120/tree

Cham -sized tree

2' to 4'

60 trees

Nu. 40/tree

Tsim sized tree

1' to 2'

60 trees

Nu. 12/tree


Below 1'

80 trees

Nu. 4/tree

Source: DoFS

Trade of forest products

As FDCL information is limited to statistics on internal sales of round logs and data collected for the occasional exports conducted by FDLC themselves, a complete picture of import and export of wood and wood products, is not possible. However, the Department of Revenue and Customs (DR&C) does maintain full information on import and export of wood and wood products. Entry and exit check points maintain data in a register, based on challans, permits and invoices. These data are entered into computer files and send to the DR&C Head office where the information is compiled and analysed. At present, DoFS receives the data from DR&C in a compiled booklet and there is no exchange of electronic data between the two departments. It would be preferable, in future, if these data were received in computer files.

Import of wood and wood products

Various types of forest products were imported during 1999 and 2000 ranging from charcoal, sawlogs (softwood), sawn timber, veneer sheets, fibreboard, wooden household utensils and furniture, etc. to paper, cartons, journals and periodicals. The total value of imports in 1999 was 242 million Ngultrum; about 91percent of which was from India (Table 5). The data shows that although imports increased in 2000 business was confined to India and there were no transactions with other countries (DR&C, 2002).

Table 5. Wood and wood product import value (Ngultrum) for 1999 and 2000






% by value


% by value


221 578 878


388 723 258



38 100





468 437





11 163 775





7 747 911





1 351 835





242 348 936


388 723 258


1 Others include Belgium, Denmark, Nepal, Netherlands, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom and USA. Source: DR&C, 2002.

Export of wood and wood products

Wood and wood products exported in 1999 and 2000 included woodfuel, sawlogs, tea-chest battens, furniture, handicraft items, sawn timber, beadings and packing cases (DR&C, 1999 and 2000). Between 1999 and 2000, exports of forest products declined significantly with a fall of 20 percent (Table 6) (DR&C, 1999 and 2000).

Table 6. Export of wood and wood products in Ngultrum, 1999 & 2000






% by value


% by value


363 478 207


295 318 581



7 033 251





370 513 457


295 318 581


Source: DR&C, 2002.

The 1999 Timber Pricing and Marketing Policy included export bans on round timber, sawn timber and firewood and encouraged wood-based industries to upgrade technology and increase downstream processing to add value to wood products (RGOB, 1998). Although activity is expected to pick up in the near future, the changes led to reduced production of value added wood products and a decline in overall quantities of wood products exported.

With respect to the future, the 9th five-year plan of the forest sub-sector supports development of wood-based industries in terms of upgrading skills, training workers and assessing manpower requirements. To facilitate this development and to enable investment and planning in the sector, sustained increases in the availability of timber will be required.

Data collected and methodologies used

Various divisions and projects, under the Department of Forestry Services (DoFS), collect data according to their functions. In addition the following organisations are involved in collection of forest and forest products related data:

Responsibilities of Forest Resources Development Division include:

Data collection

Data concerning the following are collected in the forest management units (FMUs).

The Forest Resources Development Division also collects data for forest areas outside FMUs in order to monitor forest resources allotted and utilised. The information is used for preparing forest management plans and monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the plans.

Methodology used for data collection and analysis

Data is collected through management inventories, using systematic sampling. The data are used to estimate stand density, volume/hectare, number of trees/hectare, site condition, etc. The information is used to assist in developing future management of forest stands (Laumans, 1994).

Data are compiled using a tailor-made com puter program called ‘PLOT’ which runs in FoxPro and allows automatic checking of common errors during data entry. Following field data collection, tally sheets records are entered using the input option in PLOT. The data from the tally sheets are saved in database files (PLOT.dbf, SITE.dbf, TREES.dbf, REGENER.dbf and WILDLIFE.dbf) under separate sub-directories for each inventory. Upon completion of data entry hard copies are printed for error checking and errors are corrected manually. Further error checking is carried out by PLOT in a data validation process.

Other information collected through aerial photo interpretation is entered into a GIS with detailed information being transferred to a 1:50 000 scale base map. Stand files containing area information and forest type are then prepared and stratification is carried out on the basis of these two sources of information. Calculation of results using PLOT is the final task (Laumans, 1994).

In the future, the inventory database will be linked to the GIS and ultimately to a National Database System, to provide a comprehensive Management Information System for all FMUs in Bhutan. This will act as an on-line FMU register of resources and logging and will enable information retrieval for specified geographical areas (Laumans, 1994).

In addition to the above-mentioned information, socio-economic data are also collected from the FMUs through Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA). This includes the use of structured and unstructured questionnaires and group discussion.

Forest Protection and Utilisation Division

Responsibilities of Forest Protection and Utilisation Division include:

Nature Conservation Division

Responsibilities of Nature Conservation Division

Data collected

This division collects data on (i) the socio-economics conditions of people living within the Protected Areas and (ii) bio-diversity in Protected Areas. Information on the abundance of fauna and flora is also collected in a much more detailed manner. The information is used for preparing conservation management plans for the National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.

Methodology used for data collection and analysis

Data are collected by survey and recorded in pre-designed formats. These surveys have now been completed for most of the National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries in Bhutan.

All data collected are stored in a FoxPro database although there are plans to upgrade to either MS Excel or Access. At present, statistical analysis is carried out using packages such as MINITAB. This Division also has a well-defined GIS, which will eventually be linked to the National Database System.

Territorial divisions

As field offices of the DoFS the territorial divisions are responsible for the implementation of all management plans in the FMUs. They also regulate allocation of forest produce to rural consumers within and outside FMUs.

Data collected by the Territorial Divisions predominantly concerns (i) supply of forest products and (ii) forest offences. There are also well-developed forest fire databases and information on mining and quarrying in government reserve forests is also kept.

The DFOs maintain forest depot registers in which numbers of trees and volumes of timber supplied to rural and urban consumers are recorded, along with information on revenues and subsidies. This information is collected and compiled on the basis of permits supplied by the DFOs office. A similar set of information on non-wood forest products is also kept as is information and forest products supplied to, on royalties collected from, the Armed Forces and urban Dzong/monasteries. Data are not analysed in divisional offices but are transmitted in the form of quarterly progress reports to the DoFS head office for further compilation and analysis.

Information on forest offences, collated from offence report registers maintained by the DFOs is also sent to DoFS head quarters on a quarterly basis. The format includes the following information:

Presently most of the divisional databases are maintained in the form of registers although some territorial divisions are making efforts to create an MS Excel based system (geog-wise) containing data on the rural supply of forest products. It is envisaged that this could act as a model system which the remaining divisions could modify and adapt to suit their own needs.

Social Forestry and Afforestation Division

The Social Forestry and Afforestation Division collects and maintains record on afforestation and reforestation program carried out across the country. The database includes the following details:

Information of the area planted is obtained from the territorial DFOs, Dzongkhags or from other agencies responsible for planting. Data on the survival of the seedlings planted are collected using systematic sampling methods. As statistical software has not yet been developed data are analysed manually. It is planned, in the near future, to link data from community forestry, private forestry and plantations raised by industrial firms to the National Database System.

During afforestation/reforestation activities the following information is considered:

Forestry Development Corporation Limited

Data collected

The Forestry Development Corporation Limited collects the following data:

Data on the quantity of timber produced is collected and compiled by FMUs and submitted at monthly intervals to the Divisional Manager’s office. The Divisional Manager's office also receives information from the sale depots. The two sets of information are then compiled and sent to the FDCL head office for further compilation and analysis (Figure 5). No specific statistical software has been developed for data analysis although there is a proposal to link the FDCL database to the National Database at the Ministry of Agriculture in the near future.

Figure 5. Flow of information in FDCL


Timber production

As prescribed by the Forest and Nature Conservation Rules, 2000, commercial timber production shall only be from approved FMUs and as such ad-hoc production of timber, for commercial purposes, is strictly prohibited. The Timber Pricing and Marketing Policy of 1999 recognises the Forestry Development Corporation as the sole agency in the country producing timber from the FMUs. FDCL has six production divisions under responsible for harvesting, extracting, and disposing of the timber within the country. The field offices maintain records of production and progress reports are sent to FDCL head office for compilation.

Timber sale

According to the Timber Marketing and Pricing Policy of 1999, timber is sold by the timber producing agencies through open auction only with only Bhutanese nationals being allowed to participate. Furthermore, it is directed that timber be auctioned in volumes as small as practically possible to enable the participation of small buyers (MOA, 2002). The auctioning authorities send information on quantities of timber sold to the FDCL head office for compilation and perusal. The FDCL head office, in turn, compiles the timber auction information and sends it to the Ministry of Agriculture and the DoFS head office for further action.

Dzongkhag administrations

Registers are maintained on the quantity of rural timber sanctioned at the District Forest Extension Office, which is under the Dzongkhag administration. A relatively underdeveloped database also exists for land exchange cases, detailing the thram number and name of the person applying for land exchange.

Dzongkhags are required to maintain information on the quantity of firewood supplied to the rural people for their bona fide uses. As the afforestation program has been decentralised Dzongkhags will be expected to maintain data on afforestation activities in the future.

Weakness and constraints in the current statistical system

The main constraints in the current system of data collection result from the limited budget available and a lack of human resources. An increased budget is required for setting up and maintaining a data collection infrastructure and personnel able to set-up computer networking facilities and databases are required. The personnel constraint applies in particular to the Divisional Forest Offices where there is also a lack of computer hardware.

Table 7 details strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats relating to the existing Information Collection System. The analysis shows that there are many weaknesses in the present system. The opportunities are that the methods used could be improved with minimal input and that a system of data analysis could be put in place.

Table 7. Analysis on the past/existing information collection system



Procedure simple and easily followed.

Reporting was regular

Lack of data analysis

Lack of physical verification

No feedback on lessons learned

No feedback from information users

Formats not designed for computer data entry.



To modify the format and use of the system.

As collected data are not analysed, data collection does yield benefits


In Bhutan there are many structured and unstructured databases concerning forests and forest products spread across several divisions of DoFS. To ensure better flow and utilisation of data and to assist in implementation of sustainable forest management, the databases need to be linked. Therefore, each Department under the Ministry of Agriculture should have a division responsible for Information Management Systems. Figure 7 shows the planned set-up of an Information Management System within the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Ministry of Agriculture has established a Local Area Network (LAN) in Thimphu connecting various departments and their divisions. A Network Administration Section, responsible for managing the network-related websites and databases, has also been set up. As the Divisional Forest Officers in the Dzongkhags are not connected, efforts should be made to establish connections between the territorial divisions, Parks and Dzongkhags forestry offices and the DoFS and MOA. Connections between FDCL and DoFS should also eventually be established. The above-mentioned recommendations are in line with the proposal prepared by the Task Force of the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA, 2002).

In order to improve the workability and effectiveness of the Information Management System, some structural adjustments need to be made within the DoFS. The proposed structure of the DoFS, as suggested by the Task Force, is given in Figure 6. The Information Management Section will be responsible for organising the National Database and data analysis and in particular will:

The territorial DFOs will report to the Head of DoFS through the Forest Protection and Utilisation Division (FPUD) and through this division the information will be transmitted to Information Management Section. Collection of data, at the field level, will be done by the DFOs, Projects and Dzongkhag Administrations as was previously the case.

Figure 6. Proposed structure of DoFS

Function of research in forest products statistics

National Forest Policy of 1974 recognises the need for research to assist sustainable forest management. It states that utilisation programs should keep abreast technological developments and establishment of research centres is also emphasised. Forestry research, in Bhutan, is still developing and efforts should therefore be concentrated on applied research until adequate human resources are available (RGOB, 1991).

Research on forest product statistics has not yet been initiated by the Research Centres. Forestry research detailed in the 9th five-year plan is split into nine sub-programs as follows:

  1. Strengthen forestry research organisation and management

  2. Broadleaf forest management

  3. Conifer forest management

  4. Reforestation and industrial plantation

  5. Social forestry

  6. Non-wood forest Products

  7. Wood Products

  8. Nature Conservation

  9. Forest protection


Figure 7. Proposed network set-up for DoFS and also partly MOA (adapted from draft MOA Monitoring & Evaluation Framework)


Information retrieval and management

All forest information should be stored in a forestry database within the main Ministry of Agriculture database. The data management team should have direct and full access to the department’s database server although only the DoFS representative should be authorised to enter or make amendments to forestry data.

The Ministry of Agriculture’s proposed Monitoring and Evaluation system will be heavily dependent on the information system that will enable data flow, data storage and data processing. The Information Management System Plan (IMSP) provides direction on how the information technology will be utilised within the Ministry. The system architecture, shown in Figure describes (i) organisations responsible for data collection (ii) flow of data (iii) organisations responsible for data processing (iv) how data can be accessed by users.

The data collected by the geog-based offices of the Ministry will be entered and stored in the Dzongkhag RNR sector database. Data access and analysis will also be done at this level. The data will then be electronically transferred to the National Database, either by e-mail, diskette or compact disc. The data may, if required, also be transferred to Regional Research Centres for storage and access. The National database will be accessible through web-based interfaces.

In the Department of Forestry Services, various data collection formats are presently in use. To streamline and improve cost-effectiveness of data collection, standard formats are recommended. These formats will focus on a minimum set of data so as not to overburden resources with seldom-used data.


For the network system to work effectively the following basic requirement would be necessary (MOA, 2002).



Human resources:


Anon, 2001. BHUTAN-Private Sector Survey, Report prepared jointly by RGOB and UNDP.

DoFS, 1999. Records of Forest Plantation of Bhutan, Department of Forestry Services.

DoFS, 2002. Quarterly Progress Reports of Department of Forestry Services.

FDCL, 2002. Progress Reports of Forestry Development Corporation Limited and the formats.

FRDD, 1994 Guidelines for Forest Management Inventory Fieldwork, Department of Forestry Services.

MOA, 2002a. Report on Export of Semi Finished Timber Products, Ministry of Agriculture.

MOA, 2002b. The RNR Sector Monitoring and Evaluation System: A proposal (Draft document), Ministry of Agriculture.

RGOB, 1991. National Forest Policy of Bhutan, 1991, Ministry of Agriculture, Royal Government of Bhutan.

RGOB, 1998. Timber Marketing and Pricing Policy-1999, Ministry of Agriculture, Royal Government of Bhutan.

RGOB, 2000. Forest and Nature Conservation Rules, 2000, Department of Forestry Services, Ministry of Agriculture.

RGOB, 2002. Forestry Sub-Sector Plan, Ninth Five-Year Plan Document, 2002-2007, Ministry of Agriculture.


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