In the context of this report, non-wood forest products (NWFPs) are considered to be as all the biological materials (other than timber and firewood) that may be extracted from natural ecosystems, managed plantations and semi-wild trees growing on farmlands and be utilized within the household, be marketed, or have social, cultural or religious significance. Both plant and animal products are included.
Whereas, the products collected from wild sources (natural forests) can be easily seen as NWFPs, some confusion exists about products collected from plantations (e.g. rubber, some condiments, certain medicinal plants and essential oils), particularly when part of the supplies come from natural forests and part from plantations/cultivations. Between these two extremes are also some products which originate from semi-wild and/or farmland trees. Products originating from all these sources have been considered NWFPs in this report.
NWFPs are of significance primarily in household and local economies. Many also, however, channel into international markets, mostly in unprocessed or semi-processed forms. Such products play a significant role in earning foreign exchange, so valuable for most of the developing economies. These commercial NWFPs which enter international trade are the focus of this report.
International trade in NWFPs, as that in most other products, is controlled and regulated by various trade measures. A wide array of these exist and their nature, significance, extent and impact vary considerably from nation to nation and product to product. Whereas some studies have investigated the effect of such restrictions on wood products (e.g. Bourke, 1988; Bourke, 1991; and Bourke, 1992), no systematic study has so far been conducted to identify such measures and to assess their impact on NWFPs.
This study provides information on restrictions facing the international trade in NWFPs. The specific terms of reference of the study were:
ii. To review the extent to which these measures are affecting international
trade in NWFPs and evaluate their impact on trade.
iii. To identify possible policy action which might be taken to overcome
the negative impact of trade restrictions.
iv. To provide an assessment of the impact of any reductions agreed
the Uruguay Round on future international trade in NWFPs.
v. To identify any new restrictions which may increase in future.
NWFPs entering international trade were identified in an earlier study
by the author by reviewing explanatory notes of the harmonized commodity
description and coding system 1 * (HS) together with other secondary sources
(Iqbal, 1993). This information was further refined and up-dated for the
present study. Trade restrictions were then investigated primarily using
the UNCTAD trade data base 2 * for major products/group of products thus
identified. Other available secondary sources, in particular individual
country custom schedules, were also reviewed. The report refers to the
total range of products that may be considered as NWFPs.
NWFPs face both tariff and non-tariff trade restrictions. The nature of these restrictions varies from country to country and product to product. As the list of importing countries is quite large and the range of products extensive, analysis of the trade restrictions has been restricted to the markets of EC, USA and Japan, which collectively account for about 60% (by value) of international trade in NWFPs (Appendix I).
Although an attempt has been made to give as comprehensive a treatment to the NWFPs entering these markets as possible, some of minor ones may have been missed. The problem of dealing with cultivated products like natural rubber, mulberry silks, honey, beeswax, cultivated medicinal plants like ginseng roots, sisal, etc., is recognised but they have been included because of their connections with the NWFPs, in one form or another or because it has been impossible to differentiate between these and non-cultivated products.
Finally a word of caution regarding the international trade statistics presented. As a very large volume of NWFPs are being traded unregistered, under-reporting or non-reporting, double counting, grouping of NWFPs among themselves and with other products, particularly with agricultural-based products, and the use of unrealistic prices are among the systematic shortcomings of these statistics. At the same time, since there is considerable overlap between some of the NWFPs and agricultural commodities in the trade statistics, there is every likelihood of distortion of the figures. Further, because of the variable availability of trade statistics, the quantities and values indicated for various countries reflect data from different years.
For all of the above reasons the statistics should be accepted with some caution. They do, nevertheless, provide a reasonable indication of the level of magnitude of trade in the various products.