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The Asia-Pacific region is endowed with extensive and biologically diverse forests. Hundreds of millions of people depend directly on these forests for their livelihoods. Many more people make use of the products and enjoy the services that the forests provide. Since the middle of the last century, the region’s natural forests have provided millions of cubic metres of wood annually, supporting a wood-processing industry that employs millions.

Over the past two decades, political developments, and macro-economic and extra-sectoral policies have affected forests of Asia and the Pacific to an unprecedented extent. Many countries in the region continue to suffer the effects of deforestation and forest degradation, and today the natural forests are treasured as much for the environmental services they provide, as for the wood they produce. Millions of hectares have been protected as parks and reserves, or otherwise declared off-limits to the logging industry. As a result there have been dire predictions of an acute shortage of wood or a timber famine.

Responding to the diminishing capacity of the region’s natural forests to produce timber, many countries have turned to forest plantations. Plantations have the potential to be a highly productive and sustainable source of wood and non-timber forest products. They can also provide social and environmental services, including storing carbon, combating desertification and rehabilitating degraded lands.

Historically, public-sector agencies have dominated forest plantation development in most countries in Asia and the Pacific. However, for a variety of reasons, it has been widely accepted that private small- and large-scale producers offer considerable comparative advantages when it comes to growing trees and producing industrial wood in plantations. Consequently, there is a growing interest in involving the private sector directly in the development of forest plantations, and governments and their respective forestry agencies are increasingly asking what it takes to encourage non-government entities to grow trees. In other words, they are looking for the right incentives to make growing trees attractive to small- and large-scale investors.

To date, there has been no comprehensive study of incentives that encourage plantation establishment and management in Asia-Pacific countries, despite the fact that the region leads the world in plantation development. The existing body of analysis is small and fragmented and conclusions are preliminary in nature. As a result, countries of the region have not benefited fully from past experiences and scarce financial resources continue to be spent inappropriately.

To address this knowledge gap, the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC) implemented a regional study to assess the impact of incentives on forest plantation development. The findings of the study clearly indicate that a blueprint for engaging non-government investors in forest plantation development does not exist. What has emerged, however, is that clear, consistent and stable policies and a favourable investment climate are essential ingredients to promote the development of forest plantations by small- and large-scale producers.

In presenting the findings of the study, FAO and its partners are pleased to continue their support for sustainable forest management in the Asia-Pacific region. We hope that this publication will help policy-makers and foresters to better understand the key issues, challenges and opportunities concerning the effective involvement of the private sector in forest plantation development.

He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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