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8. Information notes on statistical information

by F. Padovani,
Forestry Officer, Planning and Statistics Branch, Forestry Policy and Planning Division, Forestry Department of FAO.

Statistical Information on Non-Wood Forest Products


Statistics are about quantities and magnitudes. They are used in communicating information, keeping records and making comparisons. Forestry Sector Statistics cover all aspects of the activities of the sector. The information they carry may be needed for many different purposes, both by people within the sector and by people looking at the sector from outside.

When people use statistics, they very often use them to make comparisons the following examples are depicted from the section NON-WOOD FOREST PRODUCTS in the FAO Publication "Statistics Today for Tomorrow 1961-1991,2010". The comparisons may be between different things:

Natural Rubber Production Value of Brazil compared with Palm Hearts Production Value of Brazil.

The comparison may be between the same thing in different places:

Rattan Export Value of Indonesia compared with Rattan Export Value of Philippines.

Or the comparison may be between the same thing in the same place at different times:

Cork Export Values of Portugal Compared for Each 5 Year since 1948

If a comparison is to be usefull, we must know WHAT the things are that are being compared, WHERE they come from, HOW they are measured and WHEN.

You will notice that the graph on Gum Arabic says:

The product and the activity have been named:

- What? Gum Arabic Exports

The place has been named:

- Where? Sudan

The units are stated:

- How Measured? metric Tons, US Dollars

The time for which the export statistic is recorded:

- When? 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983 ....... 1990

In the first part of this presentation, these four characteristics of the definition will be discussed in a little more detail.

What - The definition of the product

What is a product?

When we speak of a product we are talking about an "object" a "thing" which has been produced, has been harvested, has been processed, has been manufactured, has been delivered to a household enterprise or market.

In the example above we considered very few NWFP Naval Stores, Natural Rubber, Palm Hearts, Cork, Rattan, Gum Arabic. Each of these are large collections of products. For example Natural Rubber exports may include Natural rubber latex, whether or not prevulcanized and Natural rubber (other than latex). Naval Stores may include CTO/DTO, Rosins, Salts/Esters, Other Rosin Derived, Turps, Pine Oil, Other Terpenes, Terpene Resins, etc.

When we are involved in the sale of "a product, much more detailed specifications have to be considered giving the species and quality of the material. The total volume of Gum Arabic exports includes the volume of all species and all qualities.

Different systems of statistics show different degrees of detail. The important thing to recognize is that any statistic must be accompanied by a definition if it is to be useful for comparison with other statistics.

Hopefully, we shall look at the major classifications and their definitions in more detail during this Expert Consultation in order to start to sistematize Non-Wood Forest Products (Forest Products Other Than Wood) statistics and to define a framework, structure and definition.

WHERE - The Spacial Coverage of a Statistic

Statistics may be collected at particular location in a country for example for provinces or regions, the total for the country is the sum of data for provinces producing the product in the country.

The FAO international statistics gathered attempts to obtain estimates of the total of each class in any country. In the examples, the statistics were stated as the exports of a country: Sudan, Brazil, Philippines, Indonesia, etc. The assumption is that they include all exports of the product from the country. The question may be asked do they include all the exports of that product? Are exports of all companies - large, small, government and private - included? are the exports from all ports included? is the cross border trade with neighbouring countries included? There is very little recorded trade in forest products between neighbouring African countries.

This question of coverage may be very significant in the case of domestic production, for example honey production.

Last question - are there accurate records or estimates for all of these?

How Measured - Units of Measurement of the products

The FAO international statistics use the metric system. National statistics may have their own measurement units and measurement conventions. As long as these are accurately known, they may be converted to FAO standard units. Trade statistics are recorded in many countries in weight units: kilogrammes or tonnes. These may be converted approximately to cubic metres using standard conversion factors. The FAO standard for value is the United States dollar. National currency units are converted to US dollars, using current exchange rates published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

WHEN - The Time Period to Which Statistics Relate

For example the FAO Yearbook of Forest Products presents statistics for the calendar year January-December. Some countries or companies maintain their statistics on fiscal, or financial years or according to different calendars. Where monthly data is available, the calendar year data can be calculated. Where countries supply data for a different time span, it may be necessary to accept this as a best estimate of calendar year data. For such purposes as marketing and trade, monthly data are important.

A sample of NWFP classifications

UN Standard International Trade Classification Rev. 2 and 3.

This classification has bean the basis for many national trade classification. With the introduction of by the Customs Cooperation Council of the Harmonised System in 1988, the UN introduced SITC rev.3 with a precize correspondence between the items of the harmonised system and these of SITC rev.3.

NWFP consultation held in Bangkok 5-8 November, 1991.

The Consultation reviewed the range of NWFP produced in different countries and established a classification as applicable to the Asia-Pacific region.

The NWFP reporting in Brazil.

The major significance of "minor" forest product.

Until now we have spoken about

What, Where, When, How;

but what about

WHO? and WHY?

The replay is that before is important to discuss the first series of queries, and after, in the second presentation, if there is time, we can describe the functions of a Forestry Statistical Office, the Organization of Statistical Information, how to built support for the statistical work, the importance of statistics in the decision-making process, and the role of Forestry Statistician in promoting NWFP. The experience of FAO Forestry Department in collecting and disseminating International Forestry Statistics will be presented.

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