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In order to assess the potential revenue collection from forest royalties and taxes and to examine the contribution of the sector to the Fijian economy, it is essential to obtain information about the trends and current status of the sector. This section of the report briefly presents some recent information about forest resources, forest management, institutions and policies in Fiji, along with statistics about forest area, production, consumption and trade. More detailed statistics can also be found in Appendix 1 of this report.

3.1 General description

The Republic of the Fiji Islands, in the southern Pacific Ocean, is located approximately 3,100 km north-east of Sydney, Australia, and approximately 5,000 km south-west of Honolulu, Hawaii. The islands lie between 178° E and 179° W longitude and between 16° and 23° S latitude, just inside the tropical belt. Fiji is made up of about 330 islands and about 500 more tiny atolls, islets, and reefs, which cover a total land area of about 18,390 km2. The island of Viti Levu (Big Fiji) covers about half of Fiji's area (10 429 km2) and Vanua Levu (Big Land) about a third (5 556 km2), followed by Taveuni (434 km2). The smaller islands are largely encompassed in two recognized groups, the Yasawa Group and the Lau Group. Rotuma, an isolated island about 450 km north of Vanua Levu, is also a part of Fiji (see Figure 4). About 100 of the islands are inhabited and support a population of 806,212 (end 1999), with a population growth well below 2 percent (Bureau of Statistics, 2003). The two largest islands (Viti Levu and Vanua Levu) together contain over 90 percent of the population.

The climate in Fiji is tropical, but cooling winds make the climate relatively comfortable. Temperatures range from about 16° C to 32° C. December to April, which are also the rainy season, are the hottest months, with daily highs reaching 32° C. The windward (south-eastern) sides of the islands receive as much as 3,330 mm of rain a year, while the leeward northern sides receive about 2,540 mm. Heavy rains and cyclones often occur between November and April.

The large islands are of volcanic origin, of varying geological age and of moderately fertile soil, with fairly steep dissected topography in the forest areas. Mount Tomaniivi, on Viti Levu, is the highest point at 1,324 m. A number of the smaller islands are coral formations, rising only a few meters above sea level. Nearly all the islands are surrounded by coral reefs. The major rivers on Viti Levu include the Rewa, Sigatoka, Nadi and Ba. The Dreketi is the largest river on Vanua Levu.

Three major landforms occur in Fiji: flatlands, hilly lands and steep lands. Elevations range up to around 1,300 m and the mountainous topography produces pronounced windward/leeward rainfall effects. Rain forests dominate the windward and summit steep lands. Dry forests on the leeward sides have been largely usurped by grazing and fire, and persist only as remnants. Instead, extensive lowland areas support talasiqa vegetation, extensive degraded areas dominated by grasses and ferns.

3.2 Description of forest resources

The following description of forest resources is derived from Mueller-Dombois and Fosberg (1998).

3.2.1 Closed Forests

Broadleaved lowland rain forest: on Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, this forest is mostly a mixed assemblage of 20 to 30 m tall trees, largely dominated by primary Fijian species on the steep lands, but largely displaced on flatter lands, with a lower limit of annual rainfall of 2,500 mm. The canopy matrix includes 40 to 50 angiosperm species featuring Calophyllum vitiense and Endospermum macrophyllum, along with Canarium vitiense, Cleistocalyx spp., Garcinia vitiense, Heritiera ornithocephala, Myristica castaneifolia, Palaquium hornei, Parinari insularum and Syzygium spp. Kauri (Agathis vitiense) and two other gymnosperms, Dacrydium elatum and Nageia vitiensis, are also common and become more frequent in a drier forest subtype with rainfall as low as 2,250 mm per year.

A mature lowland rain forest type on Vanua Balavu of the Lau Group features Dysoxylum mollissimum ssp. molle, Ficus prolixa, Kleinhovia hospita, Maniltoa floribunda and Veitchia joannis on shallow soils over limestone or basalt. Kabara Island, also in the Lau Group, has a little-disturbed rain forest that occupies a plateau of limestone rock with little soil development. The main trees here are Ficus spp., Intsia bijuga, Koelreuteria elegans, Pittosporum brackenridgei and Milletia pinnata.

The terrain of Rotuma is mostly rolling-hills and most of it is has been cleared for coconut plantations and mixed agriculture. The remaining patches of forest on steep slopes, cinder cones and little-weathered lava are dominated by a forest of Dendrocnide vitiensis, Elattostachys falcata, Planchonella samoensis and Pometia pinnata.

Cloud forest: this unique, stunted ecosystem is restricted to mountaintops and ridges above 600 m elevation near the coast and above 900 m inland. Stunting is related to cooler temperatures, higher winds and lower light levels that reduce photosynthesis, along with excess moisture levels that accelerate nutrient leaching and decrease soil aeration. Except at the lower elevational limits of cloud forest, common lowland species in Fiji do not generally penetrate into this zone. At 1,200 m elevation, unique trees include Ardisia brackenridgei, Dysoxylum lenticellare, Fagraea vitiensis and Weinmannia sp., and among the shrubs are Pipturus argenteus, Randia vitiensis and Scaevola floribunda. At 800 m, several common lowland species are seen, including Alstonia vitiensis, Bischofia javanica, Calophyllum neo-ebudicum, Heritiera ornithocephala, Palaquium hornei and Parinari insularum. Taxa occurring in all cloud forest elevational variants include Cyathea alata, Dysoxylum gillespianum, Macaranga seemannii and Syzygium sp.

Broadleaved dry forest: the leeward lowland primary dry forests in Fiji have largely been destroyed by grazing and fire. These "dry" forests are only seasonally dry and during the warm season they receive as much rain as the wet uplands. On Viti Levu, no primary dry forest remains. Instead, stands of Casuarina equisetifolia have taken their place. Those forests in advanced stages of recovery are associated with the trees Acacia richii, Alphitonia zizyphoides, Gymnostoma vitiense and Trichospermum richii and the palm Pritchardia pacifica.

A dry forest of sandalwood (Santalum yasi), along with Casuarina equisetifolia and Gymnostoma vitiense, occurs on Vanua Levu. Associated species include Fagraea gracilipes and Myristica castaneifolia. The sandalwood trade in Fiji, during the early nineteenth century, heavily depleted these forests and the species survives only as small relict populations.

Mangrove forest: the richest mangroves in Fiji occur at the mouths of major river deltas around mud-covered stream banks in the tidal zone. Seven mangrove species are represented. Rhizophora stylosa and R. x selala form a scrubby seaward fringe, replaced further inland by a mixed forest of Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, Excoecaria agallocha, Lumnitzera littorea and Xylocarpus granatum. Rhizophora samoensis is scattered throughout.

Coastal forest: a zone dominated by pure stands of Casuarina equisetifolia or Pandanus tectorius is supplanted inland by a mixed littoral forest that includes Barringtonia asiatica, Calophyllum inophyllum, Cocos nucifera, Cordia subcordata, Hibiscus tiliaceus, Hernandia nymphaeifolia, Terminalia catappa, Thespesia populnea and Tournefortia argentea.

A unique coastal forest exists at Sigatoka, on the south-west coast of Viti Levu. Here the dune forest is dominated by native species that normally grow inland, such as Calophyllum inophyllum, Dysoxylum mollissimum ssp. molle and Syzygium richii. These dunes are composed of magnetite sands rich in iron, which may explain the occurrence of this unique forest.

Mixed upland rain forest: found above 400 m near the coast and above 600 m inland on Viti Levu, Vanua Levu and Taveuni, the physiognomy of upland rain forests differs from that of lowland forests in being lower-statured, with crowns lower on their trunks. Temperatures are cooler and rainfall is generally higher, except that some upper elevation areas experience seasonal droughts, such as the high mountain ranges on the lee side of Viti Levu. Thus, a wet-zone forest with more than 3,750 mm annual rainfall can be distinguished from an intermediate-zone forest with 2,000 to 3,750 mm rainfall.

The wet-zone forest features two gymnosperms, Agathis vitiensis and Nageia vitiensis, along with a mix of many species also found in lowland rain forest, such as Calophyllum vitiense, Dysoxylum molllisimum spp. molle, Endospermum macrophyllum, Garcinia myrtifolia, Metrosideros collina, Myristica castaneifolia, Podocarpus affinis and Syzygium effusum.

The intermediate-zone forest features Agathis vitiensis, with Dacrydium elatum replacing the two Podocarpus species. The associated tree species are mostly the same as those found in lowland rain forest. Also appearing are the tree fern Cyathea lunulata and the smaller subcanopy trees Alstonia vitiensis, Discocalyx divaricata and Plerandra vitiensis. Invasions of the fern Dicranopteris linearis and the grass Miscanthus floridulus follow recurring fires.

Mixed dry forest: Although no longer extant in Fiji except as remnant stands, the typical Fijian dry forest is dominated by the conifer Dacrydium nidulum var. nidulum and Fagraea gracilipes. This mixed forest also includes the gymnosperm, Podocarpus neriifolius, the ironwood Gymnostoma vitiense, as well as Aleurites moluccana, Dysoxylum mollissimum spp. molle, Ficus theophrastoides, Gironniera celtifolia, Intsia bijuga, Myristica castaneifolia, Parinari insularum, Premna taitensis var. taitensis and Syzygium spp.

3.2.2 Open forests

Broadleaved freshwater wetland vegetation: poorly drained coastal flatlands along major rivers in peat or gley soils support scattered Pandanus savannah that includes native Annona glabra, Barringtonia racemosa, Fagraea berteroana and Glochidion cordatum and introduced Psidium cattleianum and P. guajava. Found on gley but not on peat are Hibiscus tiliaceus, Inocarpus fagifer and the palm Metroxylon vitiense.

3.2.3 Other wooded land

Shrubs: the coastal vegetation of Fiji follows that typically found elsewhere in this part of the Pacific, with a herb zone followed inland by a shrub zone dominated by Scaevola taccada, along with Clerodendrum inerme, Sophora tomentosa and Wollastonia biflora.

Forest fallow (talasiqa vegetation): in Fiji, talasiqa ("sunburnt") vegetation covers about a third of both Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. It refers to once-forested dry lowlands now degraded by fire and grazing into a mosaic of pyrophytic grasslands and savannahs. Large grasslands of Miscanthus floridulus and Pennisetum polystachyon dominate some areas, but in areas of severe soil nutrient impoverishment, low-growing plants of the indigenous ferns Pteridium aquilinum var. esculentum and Dicranopteris linearis are the primary vegetation cover. Because the latter stage of vegetation development of the lack of fuel trees such as Casuarina equisetifolia and Pandanus tectorius and shrubs such as Alphitonia zizyphoides, Dodonaea viscosa, Melastoma denticulata, Morinda citrifolia and Mussaenda raiateensis can become established.

3.2.4 Forest plantations

Fiji has had the most aggressive forest plantation establishment policy of any of the Pacific Islands. The Forestry Department has been establishing forest plantations at all of their fourteen stations across Fiji. The main softwood plantation species grown is Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea); the main hardwood species are mahogany and teak.

The aim of the forest plantation programme is to increase Fiji's forest plantation estate in order to meet the local demand for timber and to maintain a sustainable export trade in timber products. Establishment of hardwood plantations is now the responsibility of the Fiji Hardwood Corporation Ltd (FHCL), which aims to establish 2,000 hectares per year and to reach a total area of about 85,000 hectares by the year 2010. Fiji Pine Limited (FPL) manages the softwood plantations, which are planned to increase to about 55,000 ha by 2006.

3.3 Trends and current status of forest area

Statistics on the trends and current status of the forest area in Fiji depend upon the data sources, definitions and measurement conventions used. The three most recent sources of information on forest area are briefly described below.

3.3.1 FAO Global Forest Resource Assessment 2000 (FRA 2000)

FRA 2000 attempts to produce internationally comparable estimates of forest cover and changes in forest cover for every country in the World, based on a globally consistent set of definitions and measurement conventions. The figures presented in FRA 2000 are based on the statistics available in national inventory reports and other published documents. These are then adjusted to reflect the definitions and measurement conventions used in FRA 2000 to produce internationally comparable statistics. Thus, the figures presented in FRA 2000 may differ from those presented in national statistics.

The FRA 2000 estimate of the total forest area in Fiji in 2000 is 814,732 ha or about 46 percent of the total land area (FAO, 2001). The annual change in forest area between 1990 and 2000 has been estimated as about -1,747 ha per year (or a loss of about 0.2 percent of the forest area each year), implying a total forest area in 1990 of about 832,202 ha (based on: Tang et al, 1993).

According to FRA 2000, the area of forest plantations in Fiji is about 97,200 ha (or 12 percent of the total forest area), implying that the area of indigenous forests is about 717,500 ha. It is also estimated that the area of forest plantations is currently increasing by about 9,200 ha per year. A detailed breakdown of the species, purpose and ownership of forest plantations is also given in FRA 2000 and is shown in Table 4.

Table 4 Forest plantation area in Fiji in 2000, as reported in FRA 2000

Species group

Total area

Area by main purpose or use

Area by ownership/management

Industrial use

Non-industrial use



(in ha)

(in %)

(in ha)

(in %)

(in ha)

(in %)

(in ha)

(in %)

(in ha)

(in %)












Other Broadleaves












































Source: FAO (2001).

3.3.2 National estimate of forest area in 1995

The previous estimate of forest area published by FAO (FAO, 1997) was based on a national estimate of forest area for the year 1995 (Hasni, 1997). This reported a total forest area of 840,512 ha, of which 747,266 ha was natural forest and 93,246 ha was forest plantations (see Table 5). In addition, it was estimated that there was a further 152,775 ha of other wooded land (land with trees, but insufficient crown cover or in individual plots that are too small to be considered as proper “forest” according to FAO’s terms and definitions).

The figure for total forest plantation area is roughly comparable with that presented in FRA 2000, but the figure for the area of natural forest is slightly higher than the figure presented in FRA 2000, probably because of differences in definitions and measurement conventions between the statistics collected by national authorities and the those used in the FRA.

Table 5 Total forest area in Fiji in 1995, as reported in Hasni (1997)

Forest type

 Area (in ha)

Dense natural forest


Medium dense natural forest


Mangrove forest


Total: natural forest


Hardwood plantation


Pine Plantation


Total: forest plantations


Total: forest


Scattered natural forest


Total: other wooded land


Total: forest and other wooded land


3.3.3 Forest area statistics reported by the Forestry Department

The Forestry Department in Fiji also report statistics on the area of forest land in their annual reports (Forestry Department, 1998 and earlier). These show a total forest land area of around 890,000 ha, which has changed very little over the last 15 years (see Figure 5 and Table 23 in Appendix 1).

Figure 5 Distribution of forest land in Fiji by forest type and land ownership 1986 - 1998, as reported by the Forestry Department

Source: Forestry Department (1998 and earlier).

According to these statistics, the forest plantation area has increased from around 85,000 ha in 1986 to around 115,000 ha in 1998. This is a much lower rate of increase (2,500 ha per year) than the figure presented in FRA 2000 (9,200 ha per year). The total area of forest plantations is also about 20,000 ha higher than the figures presented earlier, perhaps because this includes land destined for forest plantation establishment that has not been planted yet.

The reported area of indigenous forest is around 775,000 ha, which is also somewhat higher than the figures presented earlier. This may be because some scattered forest areas are included in these figures as ”forest”, whereas they would be counted as “other wooded land” according to FAO’s definitions and measurement conventions.

These statistics (see Table 23) also show that landowning communities (“Native land”) own the majority of forests in Fiji (around 84 percent).

3.3.4 Summary of forest area statistics

Although the statistics used to identify the trends and current status of forest area in Fiji are somewhat conflicting, it appears that the total area of forest in Fiji is somewhere between 815,000 ha and 890,000 ha, depending on the definitions and measurement conventions used. Changes in the total forest area indicate that deforestation is very low, although some deforestation in indigenous forest areas is partly offset by increases in the area of forest plantations. The area of forest plantations may be between 100,000 ha and 115,000 ha, implying that the area of indigenous forests could be between 720,000 ha and 775,000 ha.

3.4 Trends and current status of forest management

3.4.1 History of forest management and silviculture

Fiji is a Melanesian island group, but with strong Polynesian influences. Traditional forest management was largely restricted to family home-gardens, which utilised agroforestry techniques, while the broader extent of accessible mataqali (village or clan) forest lands were used as a communal source of fuel, building materials and for hunting and gathering activities. Timber and particularly sandalwood attracted the first European traders to Fiji, with most of the sandalwood being logged before 1820. Throughout the 19th Century, planters arrived and cleared lowland forests for cotton, sugar and coconuts. Industrial timber harvesting grew slowly. In 1928, nine sawmills were producing around 6,000 cubic metres of timber. By the late-1940s, timber supplies in the vicinity of main centres of population were being depleted and serious erosion was occurring in the “dry zone” as a result of uncontrolled grazing, burning and timber cutting. The Forestry Department was established in 1938 with the objective of monitoring and controlling the exploitation of the native forest. A programme for resource development through large-scale plantations was implemented during the 1960s. The principal species planted were Pinus caribaea and Swietenia macrophylla. Since the 1980s, Fiji has been a modest exporter of forestry products, following the start of significant harvesting in the forest plantations in 1987.

3.4.2 Trends in forest management

The principal trend in forest management in Fiji during the past 30 years has been the effort to establish a significant plantation estate as a substitute and complement to natural forest wood supplies. Fiji now has a significant plantation estate, much of which is presently approaching maturity. The plantations are expected to provide an important alternative to natural forest harvesting, and should enable significant areas of natural forest to be retired into some form of conservation status (Brown, 1997; Oliver, 1999).

3.4.3 Current forest management objectives

The principal elements of Fijian forest policy have remained largely unchanged during the past half-century. A Forest Policy was approved in 1950, with the following key forest management objectives:

A National Forests Action Plan (NFAP) was finalised in 1990, leading to the identification of 29 projects, in the fields of forest management and industrial development, forestry in land-use, conservation and institutional strengthening. A subsequent Forestry Sector Review has resulted in the incorporation of additional recommendations into the NFAP to help promote sustainable forest management (FAO, 1995 and 1998a).

3.4.4 Forest management plans

Natural forests in Fiji are largely under the control of customary landowners and management responsibilities, outside of periods of logging, lie with these landowners. Management of large tracts of forests is generally passive, with little or no management input. All logging licenses issued in Fiji must comply with the requirements of the Fiji National Logging Code of Practice, which was produced in 1990. The Code of Practice requires the preparation of detailed logging and management plans. Planning infrastructure has been strengthened by the implementation of a Forest Resources Tactical Planning Project, which assisted in the provision of mapping data and training to help establish a practical and effective process for the preparation of environmentally sound coupe-level logging plans, hardwood plantation plans, and management plans. Management responsibility for Fiji’s plantation resource is vested in FHCL and FPL. Both corporations have detailed management plans in place.

3.4.5 Silviculture and forest management practices

At present, there is little or no management of indigenous forests except during the period when an area is being logged. Logging is generally carried out under a selection system, after which management responsibility reverts to the mataqali landowners. Experience shows that if logged-over forest is left undisturbed for 20 years it can be cut again. Sometimes, however, logged forest has been converted to agricultural use. Currently, plantation reforestation activities are carried out by FHCL, while FPL is involved in afforestation activities. More than 50,000 ha of hardwood plantations, mainly Swietenia macrophylla, have been planted, mainly by direct planting of seedlings at wide (9 x 4 metres) spacing. No pruning or thinning is carried out and rotations are 30 - 35 years. Around 40,000 ha of Pinus caribaea has been planted. Seedlings are planted at densities of 1000 - 1500 stems per hectare. On high quality sites, pruning to 6 metres is carried out for sawlog production. Thinning regimes are still being developed. Pinus caribaea is presently grown on rotations of around 17 years.

3.4.6 Forest conservation measures

The total area of protection forest in Fiji is around 280,000 ha (see Table 23). Of this, the formal protected areas network comprises a range of forest and nature reserves covering more than 37,000 ha. Nature reserves provide full protection to flora, fauna, soil and water resources. Conversely, Forest Reserves provide only a limited degree of protection status. Activities in these forests are restricted by a requirement to obtain a written consent from the Conservator of Forests. Several other communally-operated parks have also been established.

Environmental management is being integrated into planning and development processes to safeguard the environment and its regeneration capacity. A National Environment Working Group has been established to formulate a national environmental strategy, covering environmental protection and natural resources management. The Department of Environment is presently developing multi-sectoral legislation to support sustainable development and a Fiji Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan.

3.4.7 Forest protection measures

Cyclones are a frequent occurrence in Fiji, with the country being struck by 21 cyclones between 1980 and 1997. Detailed records of plantation damage were kept for several cyclones, but others were equally destructive. For example, Cyclone Kina in 1992 damaged almost 12,000 ha of plantations, of which 3,000 ha were written off. More than 7,000 ha were rehabilitated by firming or propping and the remainder was partially rehabilitated. Thus, wind-firmness is an important property in plantation species selection. Natural forests also sustain periodic heavy damage during cyclones (Strelke, 1997).

Wildfires cause significant losses as well. Escapes from burning of sugar cane are a major source of forest fires. In 1989, almost 1,000 ha of plantation were burned in a wildfire. FPL has introduced a programme of prescribed burning, particularly in stands adjacent to sugar cane fields, to reduce wildfire damage. Two insects, Ambrosia beetles (Crossotarsus externedentatus) and subterranean termites (Neotermes samoanus) have caused considerable concern in Swietenia macrophylla plantations. Attacks by Ambrosia beetles caused planting to be suspended in the late 1970s, but better management of debris appears to be effectively managing the problem. Biological control of subterranean termites through the application of entomophilic nematodes shows significant promise. The major fungal problem in Fiji is Brown root rot (Phellinus noxius).

3.4.8 Forest harvesting practices

It is estimated that around 150,000 ha of natural forest has been systematically harvested on Fiji. Logging has been based on a selection system, but generally without any post-logging silvicultural treatment. The selection system utilised in Fiji generally operates on a 20-year cutting cycle. Sometimes, however, logged-over forest has been converted to other uses. Natural forest management based on reduced impact logging is presently being implemented in a 5,000 ha pilot project (Natural Forest Management pilot project). To harvest timber on native land, a Forestry Right License is required under law. These are negotiated through the NLTB. There are four categories of tenure for timber cutting rights in the natural forests:

The area of timber concessions and long term licenses was around 263,000 ha in 1998, of which 132,000 ha was production forest (see Table 24). However, the majority of forest processing companies harvest roundwood under annual licences.

The Fiji National Code of Logging Practice was implemented in 1990. The code prescribes desirable practices aimed at protecting the forest environment, its assets and its users, while allowing the execution of economically viable harvesting within acceptable safety standards. The main elements of the code include requirements for planning, operational standards, environmental requirements, equipment and safety standards and requirements for training and supervision. The code covers all commercial logging operations (Jiko, 2000).

3.4.9 Public participation in forest management

The large area of Fijian forests under customary ownership ensures a high degree of, at least de facto, people’s participation in forest management. The government has, however, accorded priority to ensuring greater landowner participation in all aspects of forestry sector development. An objective is to have landholders participate more as shareholders or owner-operators in forestry activities. As part of extension and community forestry programmes, the Forestry Department has collaborated with a number of other agencies to run forest awareness activities. These are aimed at improving awareness and educating communities in the importance of mangrove ecosystems and forest protection, the importance of sustainable forest management and relationships between forest, land and marine ecosystems.

3.4.10 Special programmes and incentives to promote sustainable forest management

A variety of projects and programmes in support of sustainable forest management has been implemented in Fiji, many of which derive from the National Forestry Action Plan of 1990. A key initiative has been the development of the National Code of Logging Practice, introduced in 1990 and subsequently supported by the Forest Resource Tactical Planning Project. Both of these initiatives, and the Forestry Decree of 1992, have contributed significantly to reaching a goal of sustainable forest management. The Natural Forest Management pilot project is utilising reduced impact logging techniques across 5,000 ha of natural forest. Permanent sample plots have been established in anticipation of implementing a full sustainable forest management regime. Two eco-forestry initiatives are incorporating this pilot work into their current projects, which aim to involve landowners in management decisions and practices.

Fiji has imposed a ban on log exports, with the primary objective of stimulating local processing. A ban on circular sawmills was imposed in 1997, to help boost recovery rates and strengthen incentives for good management (FAO, 1996; FAO, 1998b; Swarup, 2000). Fiji has also expressed strong interest in the development of an internationally accepted certification system for Pacific Islands forest products (EFI, 2000).

3.5 Forestry policy and institutions

3.5.1 Legal framework for forest management

The principal piece of forestry legislation in Fiji is the Forest Decree 1992, which replaced the Forest Act 1953 (amended in 1990). The Forest Decree 1992 largely legislates to support the objectives specified in the Fijian Forestry Sector Review 1988, namely:

“to maximise the sustainable contribution of the sector to the development and diversification of the economy whilst bringing the Fijian people into fuller and more active participation in sectoral development of all levels and stages and, at the same time, protecting and enhancing the effectiveness of the country’s forest in environmental conservation”.

Amended Forest Regulations 1990 (associated with the Forests Act 1953) also remain in force. A number of other forestry specific regulations also guide forestry development, including the following:

Legislation and regulations creating specific forestry institutions also have relevance, in particular the following:

A variety of legislation relating to land, environment and conservation has been enacted, with implications for forests. Relevant pieces of legislation include the following:

3.5.2 Forest institutions and forest managers

The Fijian government’s principal forestry agency is the Forestry Department, which is a part of MoFF. The Forestry Department has a primary role in enforcement of logging regulations. It also has a significant role in management in natural forests, particularly to support management decision-making by assembling a database for the natural forest resources, including: maps; inventories; and GIS. Most of Fiji’s plantation forests are managed by FHCL and FPL. Hardwood plantation forests established by the Forestry Department were transferred to the newly formed FHCL in 1998. FPL was corporatised in 1991 and is, eventually, expected to be privatised. It manages most of the country’s softwood plantations. Forestry research is primarily under the auspices of the Silvicultural Research Division of the Forestry Department.

Eighty-three percent of land in Fiji is under customary (mataqali) ownership, with 10 percent alienated freehold land and the remaining 7 percent of land under government ownership. Almost 90 percent of the unexploited production forests and 84 percent of all Fijian forests are in mataqali ownership. Fijian mataqali do not have any corporate authority to deal in land and all negotiations for the use of timber grown on mataqali lands must be conducted through the NLTB.

3.5.3 Current forestry policy

The Government of Fiji recognizes the potential of the forestry sector to provide rural employment, income and economic development, to promote rural stability, to improve rural living standards and to act as a major source of foreign exchange.

MoFF has responsibility for most aspects of the forestry sector in Fiji, although NLTB is also an important stakeholder within Government, in view of their responsibilities related to the administration of native land. The mandate of the Ministry is to ensure that forest resources are managed sustainably and developed for the optimal benefit of all stakeholders. To achieve this, the core roles and responsibilities of MoFF are: research and development; provision of extension services and training; forest law enforcement, monitoring and surveillance; and the provision of supporting infrastructure (where economically viable).

The overall aim of government intervention is to create and provide wherever possible the social and economic environment in which the private sector can flourish and develop forest resources. The intervention policy and strategy of the Ministry is selective and relates only to areas where the private sector should not or cannot invest. More active and direct intervention (e.g. in commercial activities) is only carried out in order to stimulate investment by the private sector and to provide a sound foundation on which the private sector can build. This includes affirmative action programs that are necessary to encourage the direct participation of indigenous Fijians and Rotumans in the development of the sector.

Government policy and strategy for the forestry sector over the period 2002-04 is as follows (MoFF, 2003):

3.6 Trends and current status of production and trade of forest products

Statistics on the trends in production and trade of forest products have been collected from the Forestry Department’s Annual Reports (Forestry Department, 1998 and earlier) and FAO (FAOSTAT, FAO’s on-line statistical database, available at: A brief description of the main trends is given below and more details of the statistics available are given in Appendix 1.

3.6.1 Roundwood

Trends in total roundwood production since 1986 are given in Figure 6 (and Table 25 in Appendix 1). The figure shows that annual non-coniferous roundwood production from the indigenous forest has declined from around 200 thousand cubic metres in 1986 to around 130 thousand cubic metres in 1998. Production of non-coniferous roundwood from forest plantations has not amounted to much so far, although it is expected that production will increase significantly, as these plantations reach an appropriate age for felling over the next few years.

The figure also shows the tremendous increase in the annual production of coniferous roundwood from forest plantations over the last decade. This has increased from under 20 thousand cubic metres in 1986 to over 400 thousand cubic metres in 1998. The majority of this production comes from the plantations managed by FPL, which have started to reach maturity. It is expected that this production will also continue to increase in the future.

Total annual production has increased from around 120 thousand cubic metres in 1986 to over 550 thousand cubic metres in 1998, with the majority of production shifting from the indigenous forest to forest plantations. This trend can be expected to continue as more of the pine plantations reach maturity and harvesting starts in the mahogany plantations.

Figure 6 Roundwood production in Fiji by forest type and species group 1986 - 1998, as reported by the Forestry Department

Source: Forestry Department (1998 and earlier).

Figure 7 Industrial roundwood production in Fiji by product type and species group 1986 - 1998, as reported by the Forestry Department

Source: Forestry Department (1998 and earlier).

Figure 8 Industrial roundwood production, consumption and trade in Fiji 1961 - 2002, from FAO

Source: FAO (FAOSTAT). Note: the size of the shaded bar equals production and the height equals consumption.

Figure 7 shows the trends in annual industrial roundwood production since 1986, divided into sawlog and veneer log production (coniferous and non-coniferous) and pulpwood production.9 The figure shows that non-coniferous sawlog and veneer log production has declined from around 190 thousand cubic metres in 1986 to around 130 thousand cubic metres in 1998. This trend mirrors that of the production from indigenous forests. In contrast, production of coniferous sawlog and veneer logs has increased from around 10 thousand cubic metres to around 130 thousand cubic metres over the same period. Thus, the production of coniferous sawlog and veneer logs (all from the forest plantations) has increased to about half of the total annual sawlog and veneer log production over the last decade. The annual production of coniferous pulpwood has also increased from nothing in 1986 to around 290 thousand cubic metres in 1998.

The long-term trend in annual industrial roundwood production and trade since 1961 (as reported to FAO)10 is shown in Figure 8 (and Table 33). In this figure, the total length of the shaded bar represents total production. The amount below the zero-line represents exports and the height of the bar (i.e. the amount of the bar above the zero-line) represents domestic consumption. Imports of industrial roundwood into Fiji have always been negligible and are not shown in the figure.

This figure shows that the domestic market for industrial roundwood has increased only modestly over the last two decades (if at all), implying that the domestic forest processing sector has not grown significantly. Rather, the huge increase in production since the mid-1980s has been accommodated by an increase in exports. Almost all of these exports are coniferous wood chips produced from the forest plantations, which are exported to Japan.

3.6.2 Sawnwood

Trends in the annual production of sawnwood since 1961 are shown in Figure 9 (and Table 34 in Appendix 1). This figure shows that production increased until the mid-1970s. Since then, production has remained at around 80 thousand cubic metres to 100 thousand cubic metres in most years and has not grown significantly. In terms of species mix, the figure shows that annual production of coniferous sawnwood has increased since the mid-1980s, following the start of significant harvesting in the pine plantations. Over the last decade, coniferous sawnwood production has remained roughly constant at around 40 thousand cubic metres and now accounts for about half of all production. Conversely, the annual production of non-coniferous sawnwood has fallen from about 60 thousand cubic metres to 40 thousand cubic metres over the same period.

The figure also shows the tremendous variability in production from year to year. This can be possibly be attributed to the cyclical nature of the tourism sector (resort development is one of the main markets for local sawnwood) and, in recent years, political instability.

Figure 10 shows the trend in annual sawnwood production, trade and consumption since 1961. Over the period until the mid-1970s, consumption increased to around 80 thousand cubic metres. Exports of sawnwood were negligible and some of this consumption was satisfied by imports of sawnwood. Since the mid-1970s, imports of sawnwood have almost vanished and exports have increased to around 20 thousand cubic metres per year. Both production and exports are split roughly equally between coniferous and non-coniferous sawnwood. The most striking feature of this figure is that domestic consumption appears to have fallen over the last two decades, from around 80 thousand cubic metres per year in the early-1980s to around 60 thousand cubic metres in recent years.

Figure 9 Sawnwood production in Fiji 1961 - 2002 by species group, from FAO

Source: FAO (FAOSTAT).

Figure 10 Sawnwood production, consumption and trade in Fiji 1961 - 2002, from FAO

Source: FAO (FAOSTAT). Note: the size of the shaded bar equals production and the height of both bars equals consumption.

3.6.3 Wood based panels

Trends in the annual production, trade and consumption of wood based panels since 1961 are shown in Figure 11 (and Table 35 in the appendix). Until the early-1970s, consumption of wood based panels in Fiji was entirely satisfied by imports. Wood based panel production started in the early-1970s with the production of plywood and veneer sheets (the only two wood based panels that are manufactured in Fiji). Production increased to around 15 thousand cubic metres in the mid-1980s and has remained at around this level ever since. The majority of this production is manufactured from logs from the indigenous forest and each of these two products accounts for approximately half of the total.

Figure 11 Wood based panel production, consumption and trade in Fiji 1961 - 2002, from FAO

Source: FAO (FAOSTAT). Note: the size of the shaded bar equals production and the height of both bars equals consumption.

Total consumption of wood based panels has varied greatly from year to year, but has remained roughly constant at around 10 thousand cubic metres per year since the mid-1980s. To some extent, this consumption could account for the fall in sawnwood consumption noted earlier (i.e. product substitution). A small amount of wood based panel consumption is satisfied by particleboard and fibreboard imports into the country, but the majority is satisfied by domestic veneer sheet and plywood production. In addition, exports of veneer sheets and plywood have amounted to slightly over 5 thousand cubic metres per year over the last two decades.

3.6.4 Paper and paperboard

Fiji does not produce any paper or paperboard, so domestic consumption is entirely satisfied by imports. The trend in imports of paper and paperboard since 1961 is shown in Figure 12 (and Table 36), along with the division of imports into the three main paper product categories.

Figure 12 Paper and paperboard imports into Fiji 1961 - 2002, from FAO

Source: FAO (FAOSTAT).

The figure shows that imports increased steadily up until the early-1990s, since when they increased more rapidly to reach a level of around 18 thousand metric tonnes (MT) per year. Newsprint imports and consumption have remained constant for the last two decades at around 2 thousand MT per year and all of the growth in consumption has occurred in the other two product categories. Paper consumption increases rapidly when countries reach a certain level of development and the trends shown here are very similar to those found in other countries at the same level of development as Fiji.

3.6.5 Forest processing industry structure

The structure of the forest processing industry (size and number of mills) is important for the calculation of economic rent, as the average size of processing facilities affects the profitability of the sector and the amount that forest processors can afford to pay for the raw material.

The forest processing industry in Fiji is dominated by two large companies: Fiji Forest Industries (FFI) and Tropik Wood Industries (TWI). Together, these two companies consume about 150 thousand cubic metres of sawlogs and veneer logs each year (or roughly 40% of total production). TWI mostly processes pine sawlogs and consumes almost all pine sawlog production. The production of pine woodchips is also a major activity of TWI. FFI includes sawnwood and plywood production and is supplied by one of the few long-term forest concessions operating in Fiji (and by far the largest). FFI consumes about 50 thousand cubic metres of non-coniferous sawlogs and veneer logs or about one-third of production from the indigenous forest.

Other than these two companies, the remainder of the forest processing sector in Fiji is quite small. One other company produces both sawnwood and plywood - Valebasoga Tropikboard - but this company was in receivership at the end of 2003. All other mills only produce sawnwood and obtain nearly all of their supplies from the indigenous forest.

Figure 13 Consumption of sawlogs and veneer logs by mill size (excluding Fiji Forest Industries and Tropik Wood Industries) 1986 - 1998

Source: Forestry Department (1998 and earlier).

Trends in the structure of the forest processing industry are shown in Figure 13 and Table 26 to Table 29 in Appendix 1. Despite the decline in sawlog and veneer log production from the indigenous forest, the forest processing industry has not consolidated very much. Excluding FFI and TWI, around half of all production was processed in mills with an annual log intake of less than 5,000 cubic metres in 1986 and the same was true in 1998. However, the overall number of mills declined from 53 to 29 over the same period and the estimated number of mills operating at the end of 2003 was 21. In addition, the average mill size increased slightly from an annual log intake of 2,500 cubic metres in 1986 to 3,500 cubic metres in 1998.

The imposition of a ban on the use of circular saws in 1997 has led to some new investments in sawmilling technology. Site visits revealed that many sawmills are using new technology (e.g. modern bandsaws, some with computerised controls) and the overall condition of processing technology is relatively good compared with other tropical wood producing countries of a similar size and level of development. In addition, there have been a number of investments in kiln drying technology and machinery to produce higher value products (e.g. profiled boards and mouldings).

Table 6 Number of new entrants to the sector and exits from the sector 1986 - 1998

Size of mill (by annual log intake in cubic metres)

Total 1986-98

Annual average







0ver 10,000




























All sizes







Source: Forestry Department (1998 and earlier).

The sector also suffers from a high level of turnover, in terms of the number of mills starting up or closing down each year. Table 6 shows the number of new entrants and exits from the sector over the period 1986 to 1998. In a few cases, these entries/exits represent temporary shutdowns, but in the majority of cases they represent permanent closures of mills or changes in investors and/or management. Given that the average number of mils operating during this period was 38, the average annual level of turnover - 14 - is somewhat high, representing over one-third of the total number of mills. Turnover in the smaller mill size category is particularly high, suggesting that the long-term viability of these operations is quite low. It is also worth noting that, in 1998, only 12 of the 29 mills operating at that time had been operating for five years or more and almost all of these were in the larger size categories.

3.6.6 Summary of forest products production and trade

Recent trends in the production of industrial roundwood in Fiji have shown a decline in production from the indigenous forest as production from the pine plantations has increased. Apart from the production and export of woodchips from the pine plantations, most industrial roundwood is converted into sawnwood and a small amount is converted into plywood. Total production of these two products increased greatly during the 1970s, but has not increased by much since then.

The domestic market for sawnwood and plywood is almost entirely satisfied by domestic production, but there are small amounts of imports of other types of wood based panel. In addition, Fiji imports all of its paper and paperboard requirements. The domestic market for sawnwood and wood based panels has not grown at all in recent years. About one-third of sawnwood production is exported along with one-quarter of plywood and veneer sheet production. These export markets have also not expanded in recent years.

The forest processing industry comprises a small number of large to medium sized mills and a number of very small mills. Given the limitations of the domestic market, sluggish growth and fierce competition in export markets and the foreseen increases in industrial roundwood production from the forest plantations, the challenge for the sector will be to develop export markets to utilise this potential production.

9 Industrial roundwood production excludes the production of woodfuel (fuelwood and charcoal). It includes the production of other industrial roundwood (i.e. roundwood used without further processing for uses such as posts and poles), but recorded production of these other products in Fiji is negligible and is excluded here.

10 Due to differences in definitions and measurement conventions, the statistics reported by FAO differ slightly from those presented by the Forestry Department, but these differences are usually small.

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