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National forest products statistics, Sri Lanka



The island state of Sri Lanka, which lies between 5°55’-9°50’ North and 79°42’-81°55’ East, covers an area of 65 525 km2 (including inland water bodies) and is characterised by heterogeneous vegetation types reflecting topographic variability and other environmental factors. Sri Lanka is a densely populated country with a population in 2001 of 19.3 million, giving an average population density of 294 persons/km2. Sri Lanka’s geography comprises a highland massif in the south centre of the island surrounded by an intermediate zone of upper ridges and low valleys and an outer region of lowlands extending to coastal areas. Precipitation varies according to locality with the central highlands and the south-western lowlands receiving up to 5 000 mm per year and the eastern and northern parts up to 3 500 mm. Certain pockets in the northwest and southeast receive well below 1 500 mm.

The contribution of the forestry sector to the national economy in 2000 was estimated at 1.6 percent of Gross National Product and the total manpower employed in the forestry and wood industry amounted to about 170 000. In 1992 annual timber demand of the country was estimated at 1 million m3, with an annual growth of 4 percent.

Natural forests

Natural forest cover has been assessed over the last five decades by aerial surveys and more recently by satellite remote sensing. As in most developing countries, a reduction in cover has been observed. Assessments in 1951 and 1994 indicated dense natural forest cover at 44 percent and 24 percent respectively. Forest cover details are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Extent of natural forests in Sri Lanka by forest type in 1994

Forest category

Precipitation (mm)

Elevation (m)

Area (ha)

percent of land area

Montane forests



3 108


Sub-montane forests



68 838


Lowland rain forests



14 549


Moist monsoon forests



243 877


Dry monsoon forests



1 094 287


Riverine forests



22 411


Mangrove forests


Sea level

8 687


Sparse forests



463 842




1 919 599


Source: The Administration Report of the Conservator of Forests-2000

The GOSL imposed a suspension of tree harvesting from natural forests in 1989. Tree extraction from natural forests is therefore limited to occasional clearing of areas for development work.

Forest plantations

Data on the extent of planted forests shows considerable variation according to source. Official statistics of the FD (Administration Report of the Conservator of Forests, 1999) indicate a total of 135 623 ha, whereas, the forest inventory database (FORDATA), maintained by the Forest Inventory & Management Division in the Forest Department, show 76 469 ha. The majority of the forest plantations, except for those in the northern and eastern provinces have been mapped and inventoried (see Appendix 1).

Forestland ownership

The total area for timber production in Sri Lanka falls into different ownership categories described in this section and detailed in Appendix 2. The total extent of timber producing forest lands amounts to 109 170 ha and the extent of timber producing non-forestlands has been estimated at 1.4 million ha. Forest lands in the country fall into different ownership or management categories as described in the following sections.

Forestlands administered by the Forest Department and the Department of Wildlife Conservation

Extents of forestlands administered by the FD and DWLC are shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Forestlands administered by the FD and DWLC




Extent (ha)

1994 as percent of total land area


1994 figure


Forest Reserve


518 199

466 335


Proposed Forest Reserve


621 147

589 388


National Heritage and Wilderness Area


11 187

11 187




1 150 533

1 066 910



Jungle Corridor


10 360

10 360


National Park


462 448

462 448


Nature Reserve


33 372

33 372




284 117

284 117


Strict Natural Reserve


31 574

31 574




821 871

821 871


Source: Sri Lanka Forestry Sector Master Plan, 1995.

Forest plantations

Forest department plantations

The total extent of forest plantations currently inventoried, mapped and managed by the FD amounts to 76 500 ha. The major species comprise teak (Tectona grandis), eucalypts (Eucalyptus grandis, E. robusta, E. microcorys and others), mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) and tropical pines (mainly Pinus caribaea). See Appendix 1 for details.

Community forests

The Participatory Forestry Project, implemented by the FD between 1993 and 2000with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank, has established farmer’s woodlots in difference parts of the country totalling 9 771 ha. The majority of trees planted were teak with an area of 3 398 ha being planted in total. These woodlots remain a valuable timber resource for future harvesting.

Forest plantations in DWLC areas

The extent of forest plantations in the wildlife conservation areas has been estimated as 2 352 ha. Although the FD established the plantations, they ended up within wildlife reserves as a result of boundary realignment or declaration of new wildlife conservation areas. Considering environmental and wildlife management criteria, the plantations, most of which are teak, are not being harvested at present.

Forest plantations in the plantation crop sector

Sri Lanka has a well-developed export oriented plantation industry, comprising crops such as tea, rubber and coconut. Trees are grown in association with these crops, especially on tea estates in the central highlands and the south-west of the country. The stock on tea lands consists mainly of eucalypts species (Eucalyptus grandis, E. robusta, E. microcorys) although Grevillea robusta and Albizia spp. are also planted. Tea planters started planting eucalyptus as ‘fuel coups’ in the 19th century and the estates use the timber as fuel for processing tealeaves and for domestic construction work. Timber is also sold to third parties through special arrangements with the government. On rubber and coconut plantations in lowland areas, valuable timber species such as teak and mahogany are commonly planted for commercial purposes.

Forest plantations in the plantation crop sector are either managed by one of two state owned organisations, the Janatha Estates Development Board (JEDB) and the Sri Lanka State Plantation Corporation (SLSPC), or are leased by theses organisations to regional companies. The JEDB and the SLSPC manage tea plantations amounting to 10 703 ha and 13 345 ha respectively. The JEDB manages 17 estates with 755.6 ha of planted forests and the SLSPC have a total of 1 039 ha of forest plantation. Both enterprises are currently engaged in commercial forestry activities, which mainly comprise harvesting and selling mature tree (mainly eucalypts). Most timber extraction is contracted to privately owned enterprises rather than the State Timber Corporation (STC).

During the recent restructuring of estates owned by the two aforementioned organisations, nearly 400 tea, rubber and coconut estates were leased to 23 privately owned regional plantation companies. The total extent of leased plantation cropland amounts to 340 000 ha. Although an estimate of the extent of forest plantations on these lands has been made (12 784 ha) the exact figure is not known, as there are no maps.

Private forests

Sri Lanka does not have a large areas of private forest, however, at present, several private enterprises are involved in commercial tree plantations, in which young trees are sold to individual buyers as investments. The extent of such establishments is small and trees will not be harvested for many years.

Non-forest timber resources

Estimates of the Forestry Sector Master Plan (1995) indicate that 90 percent of the total timber produced in the country comes from non-forest timber resources, including home gardens (68 percent), rubber (12 percent) and coconut (8 percent) plantations and other perennial croplands (2 percent).

Home Gardens

The average size and species composition of home gardens varies according to factors such as agro-ecological region and population density. Trees planted on home gardens provide either timber or food and in certain instances, both.

The total extent of home gardens in the country has been estimated as 858 490 ha (FSMP, 1995). Within several sampled districts across agro-ecological regions the average stocking of timber providing trees varies between 53.9 and 419.2 trees per hectare (EA1P, 1998). Home gardens in the Kalutara (wet zone) and Kurunegala (intermediate zone) districts have higher stocking densities, averaging 508 and 284 trees per hectare respectively. The high densities are due to the presence of rubber and coconut trees cultivated in these districts. Home gardens in districts without plantation crops have lower stocking densities, but with valuable species such as teak, mahogany and jak. The proportion of mature trees (i.e. >15 years old) in the non-plantation crop areas is 5 percent, whereas in plantation crop areas (Kurunegala, Kalutara and Ratnapura districts) the figure can reach 80 percent on average.

In the past five years, an annual average of two mature trees have been felled in the surveyed home gardens. The species felled in all three agro-ecological zones, in descending order, are as follows (EA1P, 1998).

  1. Jak (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam.)
  2. Teak (Tectona grandis Linn.)
  3. Havari Nuga (Alstonia macrophylla Wall.)
  4. Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla King.)
  5. Lunumidella (Melia dubia Gaer tn.)
  6. Rubber (Hevea brasiliensis (Kunth.) Muell.Arg.)
  7. Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.)
  8. Kohomba (Azadirachta indica A. Juss)
  9. Weera (Drypetes sepiaria (Wight & Arn.) Pax & Hoff.)
  10. Albizzia spp.

Several studies have identified home gardens as an important source of timber and fuelwood in the country (FSMP, 1995 and EA1P, 1998) and in 1995 home gardens produced 551 000 m3 of saw logs nationally. This is considerably higher than the total quantity of sawlogs produced by the STC in 2001 (109 032 m3) and in upcountry areas, medium size saw mills are heavily reliant on timber from home gardens. In recent years, there has been an increasing trend of timber tree planting in home gardens (Weeramunda & Baminiwatte, 2000) and it has been estimated that during the next 15 years, the total annual production of timber from home gardens will be 1.2 million m3 (EA1P, 1998).

Administrative procedures for removal of timber produced in private lands

Removal of timber from private lands, including home gardens, is governed by restricted felling regulations and transport permits, as follows.

Restricted felling: Due to their nutritional or economic significance, the government restricts felling of jak (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam), wal del (Artocarpus nobilis Thw.) and female palmyra (Borassus flabellife L.). These trees may be felled only under special circumstances on special approval granted by Divisional Secretaries.

Transport permits: Timber transport permits have been made obligatory for many important timber species. Authority is required from the Conservator General of Forests1 for removal of the following eight tree species from private or government leased lands: Kaluwara (Diospyros ebenum Koenig), Kalumediriya (Diospyros quesita Thw.), Burutha (Chloroxylon swetenia DC.), Hulanhik (Chukrasia tabularis A. Juss.), Gammalu (Pterocarpus marsupium Roxb.), Milla (Vitex altissima L.), Welang (Pterospermum canescens Roxb.), Panakka (Pleurostylia oppositsa (Wall.) Alston).

The Divisional Forest Officers may grant permission for removal of the following species from private or government-leased lands: Palu (Manilkara hexandra Roxb.), Suriyamara (Albizzia lebbeck (L.) Benth.), Halmilla (Berya cordifolia (Willd.) Burret), Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna (Roxb.) Wight & Arn.), Kohomba (Azadirachta indica A. Juss), Mee (Madhuca longifolia L.J.F.Macbr.)

All species mentioned above are classified as class I, special class or luxury timber by the STC. For other tree species not mentioned above or not needing a transport permit, according to Gazette Extraordinary No.1129/13 of 28/04/2000 or subsequent regulations, approval for removal from private or government-leased lands may be granted by the Divisional Secretaries.

Major commercial species raised in plantations or on private lands, such as teak, eucalypts, pine, mahogany etc. and most natural forests species, still require transport permits1 and deregulation is unlikely.

Collection of statistics

Statistics on timber production from home gardens and private lands are not collected. As a significant quantity of timber is removed from these lands, recording annual production is a priority. Form ‘F’, commonly used by Range Forest Officers and the Divisional Secretaries to approve timber removal from private or government-leased lands has sufficient space for collection of data such as log volume and volume of roundwood, sawnwood and fuelwood. During the survey, however, it was found that this information is not recorded and therefore timber felled illegally and transported undetected, and species not requiring transport permits are not recorded.

Plantation crops


Rubber is capable of producing 65 m3 of sawlogs per hectare at the end of its 25-year economic life span and is used for many purposes, including furniture, plywood, shuttering in building construction and fuelwood on tea estates. The annual contribution of rubber wood to total national timber production in 1995 was estimated at 13 percent by the Forestry Sector Master Plan. In the same year, rubber plantations produced 256 000 m3 of sawlogs on a total of 193 000 ha. In spite of a reduction in new planting areas, the FSMP (1995) predicts an increase of saw logs from rubber plantations over the next 20 years. From 2000 to 2005 the predicted increase is from 256 000 to 269 000 m3.

No regular statistics are collected on rubber wood extraction from estates or smallholdings. Therefore, a major component of timber production in the country is not included in national statistics.

Coconut and palmyra

In recent years, coconut timber has gained much importance in the housing industry, especially as rafters for roof construction. At the end of its economic life span of 50 years, a well-stocked coconut plantation may produce 49.4 m3 of sawlogs per hectare. The extent of Coconut plantations in the country was estimated as 300 700 ha in 1995. The FSMP (1995) predicted that the area of coconut plantation would remain stable for a long period and that along with Palmyra, total production of saw logs would increase from 202 400 to 220 000 m3 between 2000 and 2005. As with rubber wood, no regular statistics are collected on removal of coconut timber from large estates or smallholdings.

Other timber sources

Timber is also extracted from other sources such as perennial croplands other than tea, rubber and coconut. These include lands planted with coffee, cinnamon and cocoa. Total area of these croplands has been estimated as 45,300 ha with a production potential of 0.69 m3 of sawlogs and 0.48 m3 poles per hectare per year (FSMP, 1995).

Tree planting by main roads is a common sight in Sri Lanka and the current Forestry Master Plan has quantified 2.5 trees per kilometre of road. The total length of highways planted with trees is about 17 000 km (FSMP, 1995). In addition, the Participatory Forestry Project (1993-2000) assisted in establishing 1 288 km of roadside tree plantings, the survival of which varied according to agro-ecological zones (Weeramunda & Baminiwatte, 2000). Trees are occasionally felled at maturity, for safety reasons or for development work; the STC is normally responsible for felling and timber extraction.

Agencies dealing with timber production, harvesting and processing

The following governmental and private institutions are involved in timber production, harvesting and processing in Sri Lanka:

The capacity, organisation and responsibilities of these agencies at national and provincial level are described below.

Forest Department

The FD, currently under the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, as one of the oldest state institutions in the country, is responsible for the management and safe guard of national forest resources for production and the environment. The Conservator General of Forests heads the FD with an office at the Colombo Head Quarters. The FD maintains 18 territorial units known as Forestry Divisions, which follow the Administrative Districts of the country; each is headed by a Divisional Forest Officer.

Forestry Divisions

The Forestry Divisions are the territorial arm of the FD for administration and implementation of forestry policy decisions. Currently timber harvesting is confined to these territorial units and FD itself does not do any timber harvesting.

Before the beginning of each year, the Divisional Forest Officers identify timber-harvesting areas and inform the Deputy Conservator of Forests (Forest Inventory and Management Division) at the FD HQ in Colombo. The annual timber-harvesting program is prepared and the STC are informed. Upon clearance from Head Office, the Divisional Forest Officers issue Coup Entry Certificates to the Regional Managers of the STC to commence harvesting. The DFO and his support staff closely monitor harvesting operations and the STC has to return the area within a given time frame, as logged areas are replanted in the ensuing season.

After successful completion of work by the STC, the DFO issues a Coup Clearance Certificate. If the work has not been correctly completed or has caused damage to the remaining stand or the environment, the STC are penalised.

Forest management

The Forest Inventory and Management Division (FI & M) of the FD is responsible for management of all natural and plantation forests in the country. Most forest plantations are managed according to working plans and the FD annually releases selected plantation sub-blocks to the STC for felling or thinning operations. Since commissioning of the STC in 1969, the FD has not undertaken any timber harvesting in its own forests.

Forest management in transition

It is anticipated that in the near future most functions of the FD will undergo considerable changes due to the current restructuring program. Any proposed mechanism for improved data collection has also to consider these anticipated changes. The possible changes would be as follows:

Formation of four new forestry regions, each headed by a regional Deputy Conservator of Forests. Each region would include 3 to 4 forestry divisions.

Decentralisation of FD activities. Logistics for the decentralised administration, especially in relation to forest management and harvesting, have not yet been identified.

Annual release of a minimum of 600 ha of forest plantation for harvesting. Private timber concessions and the STC are invited to submit their bids. In addition, it is envisaged to lease 1 200 ha of plantation per year to the private sector for management over a five-year period.

State Timber Corporation

The STC currently functions as the sole authority in harvesting trees from state lands. This government entity, which was established in1968, has an infrastructure developed for timber harvesting. The STC has its head quarters in Colombo and works in close collaboration with the Forest Department. It is divided into 13 territorial regions, each covering more than one forestry division/administrative district. The STC is well equipped with harvesting machinery, worth about 483 million SLR.

Sources of timber

STC extracts timber from following sources:

Under normal circumstances, the felling area will be divided into coups by the STC and harvesting will be entrusted to registered contractors. On rare instances, however, the STC also harvests timber. The contractors are paid according to the quantity of timber supplied to the STC timber depots, located in different parts of the country.

The work in each coup is closely supervised by an STC Coup Officer who keeps a record of converted material from each felled tree.

Payment of stumpage

The STC annually pays government stumpage for timber removed from forests, however, the method of calculating fees has been controversial. Before introduction of stumpage appraisal, the STC paid a royalty of 12 percent to the consolidated fund of the government based on total annual turnover. Since introduction of appraisal, however, calculations have been made on the basis of the quantity of converted material removed. Stumpage varies according to species and the dimensions of the logs harvested. The current ADB funded Forest Resources Management Project has undertaken to review the existing procedures.

Record keeping by STC is relatively well developed. It is understood that FD obtains data on timber harvests from STC for special requirements, such compilation of statistics on timber production and stumpage calculation.

Future perspectives

The recent restructuring activities of the forestry sector in Sri Lanka have paid special attention to the future role of the STC and a phased introduction of the private sector into timber harvesting has been proposed. According to the report of the current Forest Resources Management Project (ADB Loan No. 1744-Sri (SF)), the STC will be guaranteed harvesting rights over 1200 ha of state forest plantations in 2000 provided the allocated area in 2001 equals or exceeds 1200 ha. If STC is unable to meet the 2001 harvesting target, the annual allocation for 2002 and 2003 will be limited to the area harvested in 2001. Based on the performance of STC in 2001-2003, an independent body will decide on the subsequent STC quota. It is inevitable that in the near future the STC will compete with private entrepreneurs for timber harvesting contracts.

Regional plantation companies

Tree harvesting by Regional Plantation Companies may be for one of two purposes: (i) for own consumption, i.e. as fuelwood for tea processing and for construction of workers quarters and, (ii) for sale to third parties, i.e. industrial timber. There are several regulations governing activity of the RPCs:

Manufacturing industries

Plywood mills

Only one major plywood mill operates in the country at present. The mill was previously owned by the Government, having been established with Romanian assistance. It is now under private management and has been re-equipped with new technology. The plywood and plywood products produced are for domestic consumption and raw material requirements amount to 970 m3 of peeler logs per month. Most logs are from private gardens and Regional Plantation Companies and the predominant species include rubber, Albizzia spp. and mango. Due to scarcity of raw material the mill is running below capacity, however, production figures are not included in any national database.

Pulp and paper products

At present, two medium size paper mills operate in Sri Lanka. The mill at Valachchanai mainly uses recycled paper as raw material whereas the mill at Embilipitiya uses about 30 percent recycled paper and 70 percent imported pulp and locally collected pulpwood. Albizzia and eucalypts, purchased mainly tea estates and other private lands, are the main species used. Tropical pines, which are abundant in the country, are not used due to high cost of chemical processing.

The current forest products statistical system

Statistical systems of agencies producing, processing and marketing timber

The State Timber Corporation

The STC, being the largest timber harvesting enterprise, maintains a well-developed statistical system on the production and trade of various wood products. Statistical records are kept for all stages from trees felling to conversion and marketing. The procedures are as follows:

Preparation of enumeration lists

After selection of a forest plantation sub-block for harvesting, the FD demarcates the boundaries, prepares an enumeration list and issues a coup entry certificate to the STC to commence felling operations. The enumeration list carries details of each tree selected for felling. This includes data on the species, merchantable height (bole height to the first significant branch) and the girth at the breast height of the tree. Each tree selected for felling is serially numbered.

Coup demarcation

The STC divides the felling area into coups. A coup has an average size of 5.0 ha and is given to a registered contractor for logging. A Coup Officer is assigned to supervise all activities within the coup, including record keeping.

Maintenance of coup registers

Coup officers are responsible for maintaining coup registers, which contain information on materials converted from felled trees. Items recorded vary according to tree species; the following are some examples:

Number of logs obtained from each tree and their dimensions are recorded (mid-girth under bark (cm) and the length (m)) and each log is numbered according to the tree from which it was taken. The volume of each log is calculated in cubic decimetres using tables, and recorded.

Items such as fuelwood, outside slabs and fence posts are recorded for the total coup area and not on the basis of the individual tree. In the case of railway sleepers, which are converted in-situ from felled Eucalyptus microcorys and E. grandis trees, records are made for each tree.

Filling of the advice of dispatch

The coup officer prepares a monthly return to his superior on wood products released from the coup and transported to the relevant STC depot. In the case of logs this includes the species, log number, class, length, mid-girth, volume and serial number given by the receiving depot.

The stock book of the depot

At each depot, material supplied from the coups is entered in the stock book. In the case of roundwood, a separate serial number is given to each piece. The stock book includes three valuable items of information: (i) the amount sold during a specified period, (ii) the quantity transferred for sawing and (iii) the quantity transferred to other depots or sales outlets. For firewood, fence posts and railway sleepers, two separate stock books are maintained at the depots.


Monthly reporting by ARM to RM

The Assistant Regional Managers in charge of the sub-regions of the STC send monthly returns to their Regional Managers which include values and amounts received, produced, sold, transferred and in stock for logs, sawn timber and other wood products.

Monthly reporting by Regional Manager to STC HQ

Regional Managers of the STC send monthly returns to the planning division of the STC HQ on production and sale of forest products in their respective regions. This feedback forms the annual STC statistics on timber production. Three forms are used, one each for logs, sawn timber and other wood products. Each contains information on the utility class, production, receipt, issues (sales and transfers) and sales values for the current month.

Additionally, a separate document is sent to the head quarters by the Regional Managers, which specifically contains production information. Production figures are given separately for (i) Logs (in standard utility classes), (ii) Sawn timber (in standard utility classes) and (iii) Other wood products.

The origin of the timber is classified into the following categories: (i) timber extracted from state lands, (ii) timber extracted from private lands, (iii) timber received as confiscated material from forest offences, and (iv) timber from other sources (e.g. development areas)

Compilation of statistical highlights by the State Timber Corporation

Based on the statistical returns sent by the Regional Managers, the planning division of the State Timber Corporation prepares monthly reports on the production and sale of logs, sawn timber and other wood products. The structure of the current Statistical Highlights published monthly by the STC is as shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Structure of the Monthly Statistical Highlights compiled by the STC


Area covered


Sales figures

Regions and nationwide

Logs and sawn wood, in utility classes and other wood products. Quantity and value.

Stock summary


Volumes of the existing stock and their values.

Targets vs. achievement

Regions and nationwide

Monthly targets for production and sale of logs, sawn timber and other wood products and their achievement

Stock summary


Volumes and value of existing stock. This is the input to the regional stock summaries.

Stock summary for coconut timber

Few depots

Volumes and value of existing stock.

The Forest Department

The FD does not maintain its own records on yields from timber harvest, but relies heavily on statistical data provided by the State Timber Corporation. The FD collects statistical data for two main purposes:

The regional plantation companies

As already mentioned, there are 23 private regional plantation companies in Sri Lanka managing leased tea, rubber and coconut plantations by the government. Many of these companies are now engaged in commercial forestry through harvesting timber and establishing new industrial wood and fuelwood plantations. As forestry is a new discipline for most of these companies, the Ministry of Plantation Industries provides them with guidance on keeping harvest records.

During early 2001 the Ministry of Plantation Industries requested the regional plantation companies to maintain coup registers in a similar format to those maintained by the State Timber Corporation. Extracts of the information are presented to Divisional Forest Officers to obtain transport permits for removed material.

The author visited an RPC to collect information on statistical procedures and is of the opinion that many companies are not keeping up-to-date records and may need assistance. Observations are presented in Appendix 4.

The Customs Department

The Sri Lanka Customs maintain statistics on import and export of wood and wood based products based on declarations made by importers and exporters. Wood and wood based products are classified according to the Harmonised System (HS 96) using standard codes. The yearly publication, ‘External Trade Statistics’, published by Sri Lanka Customs, includes annually quantities of products imported and exported.

Forest products statistical publications

Several state agencies in Sri Lanka produce statistical documents, which also include data on forests products and their trade. Some of the recently available publications are listed below.

Weaknesses and constraints in the forest products statistical system

Different forest harvesting practices, complex institutional and regulatory arrangements and varying land ownership have led to incomplete collection of forestry statistics and compilation of statistics on production of timber forest products.

Incomplete coverage of statistical data

Of total timber extraction, and production of wood-based products, only part is included in national timber production statistics because data collectors relying exclusively on the STC, as data from other institutions are not currently available. Statistical data compiled by the STC relate only to timber removed by STC itself from the following sources: (i) forest plantations released annually by the FD, (ii) estates leased to regional plantation companies (partly), (iii) confiscated material from illegal felling and other forest offences, and (iv) land clearing for development projects. The STC is involved in only 10 percent of national timber extraction.

Compilation of statistics by the STC is quite satisfactory and other agencies such as the Forest Department rely heavily on these data.

Unutilised data

Data on non-STC timber removals are recorded in official documents or as production figures of private organisations, and remain unutilised. These are as follows.

Unrecorded timber extractions

Limited dissemination of statistical data

The only detailed statistical document on timber production, the monthly ‘Statistical Highlights’ of the STC, has a limited circulation and is used mainly by the FD. Other documents such as the ‘Administration Report of the Conservator General of Forests’ or the ‘Report of the Central Bank’ have a limited pool of users, including researchers and students. Details of the information collected and disseminated by relevant agencies are given in Appendix 3.

Institutional arrangements

There is neither coordination between relevant agencies nor a central establishment in the country that collects data on forest products and marketing. The Department of Census and Statistics, which has responsibility for collection of national statistics in many fields, restricts itself to data on removal of public timber. The FD, the major establishment responsible for forest management, has no statistical unit and relies heavily on data collected by the STC.

Constraints in completing information requested by FAO

Problems encountered in completing information requested by FAO for 2000 included:


Sri Lanka is attempting to intensify forestry sector production by redefining its production forestry estate, introducing genetically improved seeds, improving silvicultural and nursery practices, revising inventory techniques and improving forest plantation valuation. The increasing participation of private enterprises in forest plantation management and harvesting is inevitable. Under these circumstances, centralised recording of data related to timber removals and performance of wood based industries is of high significance.

Data collection should be done at many levels with the involvement of several multi-disciplinary agencies. The institutions involved and the methodologies proposed are outlined in the following sections.

Institutional involvement

Collection of statistical data could be undertaken within the existing institutional framework without much additional investment. All relevant public and private sector institutions that are listed below shall participate in the data collection process.

Public sector

Private sector

Institutional development

To centralise data processing and dissemination, it is r ecommended that a unit be established to collect, process, store and disseminate data provided by the aforementioned agencies. The unit could be located at the Forestry Division of the present Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. At present, this unit is employing a statistician, but existing facilities and manpower needs to be upgraded. Is it proposed the unit be called the ‘Central Forestry Statistics Unit’ of the MENR.

The MENR shall play the lead role in the data collection process. Appointment of a monitoring committee with representatives of all concerned parties would be advantageous. It is proposed that the committee include representatives of:

To upgrade monitoring of activities by the Ministry of Plantation Industries, the capacity of the PMMD should be expanded by establishing a system to monitor timber-harvesting activities by RPCs. The RPCs should be requested to report on quantities of timber removed and on other activities such as the establishment of new plantations, etc. The PMMD would send data to the Central Forestry Statistics Unit in the MENR.

To increase Forest Department data collection capability, it is important that FD possess its own database on timber removals from forests under its administration. The current upgrading of the FORDATA database by the FRMP is a move in this direction and stand parameters for forest plantation sub-blocks can be retrieved from FORDATA for use in managerial decisions. It is anticipated that extra modules will be added to record the felling history of each sub-block, which would include information on timber removals.

It is necessary that all concerned parties recognise the importance of forest products statistics. The skills of primary level data collectors should be improved through additional schooling sessions and the few senior staff involved in statistical analysis should be provided additional training on database management.

Data to be collected

Types of data to be collected are as follows:

Information flow

Information flow during data collection depends on the hierarchical order of the concerned agencies (Table 4).

Table 4. Hierarchical order of territorial units of relevant agencies


Hierarchical position

Territorial organisation

Forest Department


Region ® Division ® Range ® Beat

State Timber Corporation


Regions ® Sub-regions

Ministry of Plantation Industries


District Secretariats


Divisional Secretariats ® Grama Niladhari Divisions

Rubber Development Department


Regions (Districts)

Coconut Cultivation Board



Regional plantation companies


Clusters ® Estates ® Divisions ® Fields

The impact of the decentralisation of forest department activities

At the time of preparing this report, the FD had formed four forestry regions in the country, (southern, western, central and north-western) each headed by a DCF(R). Each region has two or more forestry divisions. Currently the forests are managed centrally by the FDHQ and decentralisation arrangements are not yet known.

The author is of the opinion statistical data could be more efficiently collected under the new administration. This applies especially to data on timber extraction from home gardens and other private lands and survey of private saw mills. In addition, the regional administrations should monitor timber extraction by logging concessions. Effective coordination could also be established with rubber and coconut authorities at the regional level. Collection of statistical data from Regional Plantation Companies should be entrusted to the Ministry of Plantation Industries.

The entrusted responsibilities and tasks for each stakeholder organisation at the regional or divisional level are given in Table 5. The proposed flow of information among relevant stakeholders is presented in Figure 1.

Table 5. Collection of statistical data at district level and responsible institutions

Type of information

Responsible institution

Area covered

Data collector

Data source


Report to

Quantities of logs, sawn wood and other converted material removed from public lands.




Coup registers

Quantities of timber removed recorded for each felling area or coup




CO/Estate staff


Timber concessions




Quantities of logs, sawn wood and other converted material removed from private lands on transport permits


Home gardens/Other private lands


Copies of transport permits issued to the public.

Preparation of monthly returns on quantity of logs and sawnwood removed


Divisional Secretariats

Divisional secretary

Quantities of logs, sawn wood and other converted material, other than rubber or coconut, removed from private lands. (Transport permits not needed).


Home gardens/Other private lands


Records of private saw mills in ranges

Quarterly surveys of log purchases by private saw mills


Rubber wood from small holdings

Rubber Development Department


Rubber Development Officers

Through monitoring of large scale clearings

Estimation of the quantity and value of felled material


Coconut timber from small holdings

Coconut Development Authority


Coconut Development Officers

Through monitoring of large scale clearings

Estimation of the quantity and value of felled material


Plywood, veneer, MDF, paper and pulp production

Forestry Statistical unit of the MENR


Forestry Statistical unit of the MENR

Return of annual questionnaires

Data recorded on production and turnover.


External trade of wood and wood based material.

Customs Department


Statistical unit of the Customs Department

Customs statistics

Records made of quantity and value of exported and imported wood and wood-based products


Figure 1. Proposed forest products information flow


Annual Administration Report of the Conservator General of Forests, 1999 & 2000. Forest Department, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Annual Report of the Central Bank, 2000. Publication of the Central Bank, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Baminiwatte, A.N.S., 1985. Plantation forests as a source for wooden transmission poles. Proceedings of the annual sessions of the Institute of Engineers Sri Lanka on wood poles- production and usage in the supply industry, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Environment Action 1 Project (EA1P), 1998. The effect of the wood products industry on natural forests, Final report, Ministry of Forestry and Environment, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

External Trade Statistics of Sri Lanka Customs, 2000. Report published by Sri Lanka Customs, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Project document of the Forest Resources Management Project, Sri Lanka, ADB Loan No. 1744-SRI (SF).

Sri Lanka Forestry Sector Master Plan, 1995. Publication of the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Forestry, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Statistical Abstracts, 2000. Publication of the Department of Census and Statistics, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Statistical Compendium for Natural Resource Management, 2000. Publication of the Ministry of Forestry and Environment, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Statistical Highlights of the State Timber Corporation, January- December 2000. Internal document of the State Timber Corporation, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Weeramunde, J & Baminiwatte, A.N.S., 2000. Socio-economic and Environmental Impact Assessment of the Participatory Forestry Project, Final Report, TEAMS Limited, Colombo, Sri Lanka.



Appendix 1. Inventoried forest plantations, 1999 (ha)











5 753.8



5 959.3


3 226.5





5 290.0



6 109.3


2 947.1


9 446.7




2 616.2


3 012.6










1 080.7


2 528.7





4 153.9




1 070.5



1 502.6





3 071.8


3 752.0






1 187.2


3 895.4


1 451.8


3 476.6


9 166.1


1 572.6



1 242.5


4 148.8


3 634.8







5 014.2

Nuwara Eliya


4 742.6


2 405.8



7 335.6




2 124.6



3 117.2


4 101.8


3 647.3




8 142.4





2 580.3



4 320.6


24 884.3


23 756.3

3 041.9

16 406.2

5 165.1

2 532.0

76 469.1

Source: FORDATA database of the Forest Department

Appendix 2. Current timber-producing areas in Sri Lanka (excluding natural forests)




Extent (ha)


Forest lands

Forest plantations

Forest Department

76 469

Only the inventoried and mapped extent is given. Records give total as 135 622 ha for 2000.

Department of Wildlife Conservation

2 352

No timber harvesting is being undertaken.

Village communities/ farmers

9 771

Farmers woodlots established under the Participatory Forestry Project (1993-2000).

Regional Plantation Companies/Government

12 784

Tea, Rubber and Coconut estates leased to private sector by the government.


1 795

Government statutory bodies.


6 000

Newly established private sector forest plantations, not ready for harvesting.

Non-forest lands

Home gardens

Private family holdings

858 490

Stocking of utilisable timber trees varies considerably according to many factors.

Rubber plantations

Regional Plantation Companies, JEDB/SLSPC, Small holders

193 000

Timber often used as fuelwood, for furniture and as support material in the construction industry.

Coconut plantations

Regional Plantation Companies, JEDB/SLSPC, Smallholders

300 700

Timber has gained importance as a material for roof construction.

Other perennial cropland

Mostly small holders

45 300

Includes cinnamon, cocoa, coffee and palmyra plantations mixed with timber trees.

Roadside plantings

Road Development Authority/Communities

18 288 km

1 288 km completed with community participation under the Participatory Forestry Project (1993-2000).

Appendix 3. Information dissemination by timber harvesting and processing stakeholders


Types of information held

Main information recipient/s


Other data users

State Timber Corporation

Timber removals from state and private forests

Forest Department

Department of Census and Statistics

Central Bank

Stumpage calculation

Publication in reports

Planning purposes

No wide range of users. Limited to students and researches.

Forest Department

(Range Forest Officers)

Timber transport permits. No statistics compiled on quantity of timber permitted for removal


Not applicable

Not applicable

Divisional Secretaries

Timber transport permits. No statistics compiled on quantity of timber permitted for removal


Not applicable

Not applicable

Regional Plantation Companies:


Timber removed from tea, rubber and coconut estates

Range Forest Officers

(Only for trees that require permits for removal)

To obtain transport permits. No further transmission of data for statistical purposes

Not applicable

Private tree growers, home gardens, tea, rubber and coconut smallholdings.

Other perennial croplands

Quantity of timber removed from their holdings

Range Forest Officers

(Only for trees that require permits for removal)

To obtain transport permits. No further transmission of data for statistical purposes

Not applicable

Wood based industries (Plywood, Pulp and paper)


Value of turn-over


Not applicable

Not applicable

Appendix 4. Case study: Hapugastenna Plantations Ltd.

Recording of timber harvest by a regional plantation company – Hapugastenna Plantations Ltd.

The author visited Hapugastenna Plantations Limited at Ratnapura on 23rd May 2002 to collect information on timber harvesting record keeping procedures. This RPC has 22 estates, mainly in the Sri Lankan uplands, with an area of 1 496 ha. The main stock comprises of stands of mature eucalypts thriving in the hilly steep terrain. Two cable crane units have been commissioned for timber harvesting and hauling. The company maintains good records of timber harvest for accounting and audit purposes. Data recording includes the following stages:

1. Tree Count on Fields Selected for Felling During the Year

Each tree is serially numbered, species identified, GBH and merchantable height measured and volume estimated using tables. Normally the tree cover on fields consists of Grevillea robusta, planted for shade, or eucalypt block plantations.

2. Preparation of Tree Harvesting Estimates

The superintendent of each estate prepares a timber-harvesting estimate for the next felling season using a standard format. Data collected by tree counting is used to prepare the estimate. The timber-harvesting estimate includes the number of trees falling within three girth classes (>5’, 3’-5’ and <3’)

Operation costs for felling, included in the annual budget of the relevant estate, are calculated using these lists.

3. Recording Daily Timber Production

Timber harvesting is done by company cable-logging units and by private timber buyers. In both cases daily turnout from each felling area is recorded.

4. Recording Monthly And Total Timber Production

By summarising daily timber production, the company prepares monthly production figures for each field in which timber harvesting has taken place.

The company does not provide data on annual timber production (including rubber) to any state data-collecting agency as no requests have been made; the data is used, rather, for company accounting purposes. The Plantation Management Monitoring Division (PMMD) of the Ministry of Plantation Industries, which overseas activities on leased estates, so far has not developed a mechanism to collect data on timber production by private and government owned plantation companies.


Appendix 5. List of persons interviewed

Mr. Abey Dias, Director, Plantation Management and Monitoring Division, Ministry of Plantation Industries.

Mr. Atapattu, Mill Manager, Ruhunu Plywood Company Ltd., Gintota.

Mr. K.R.D.S Perera, Statistician, Forestry Unit, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

Mr. Lesly Gunaratne, Deputy General manager, State Timber Corporation.

Mr. Mahinda Seneviratne, Divisional Forest officer, Ratnapura.

Mr. Priya Gunewardene, Forestry Coordinator, Hapugastenna and Udapussellawa Plantations Ltd.

Mr. Wickremasinghe, Statistician, State Timber Corporation.

Mr. H.N. Siriwardena, Deputy Director (Statistics), Customs Department.

Mr. Abeysinghe, Project Engineer, National Paper Company, Colombo.

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