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International trade in non-wood forest products in the Asia-Pacific region

Main products

Mohammad Iqbal Sial
Deputy Conservator of Forests
North West Frontier Province, Pakistan


Socio-economic importance

The Asia-Pacific region is rich in non-wood forest products (NWFPs) in terms of diversity, number and value. The region produces the largest number of NWFPs and dominates world trade. Several NWFPs are unique to the region. The contribution of NWFPs to the revenue of countries and their value in terms of earnings and employment is considerable, especially in the developing countries of the region.

Millions of households in the region depend on the forests not only to supplement their domestic requirements of food, fodder, fibre and medicines, but also to supplement their incomes by selling part, or all, of their collection in local markets. Gathering and processing forest products may be the main source of income, or provide a supplementary income for people involved in activities outside the forest such as farming. Both men and women are involved in such activities. In India alone, more than 41 million tribals and other forest dwellers derive their earnings from these products, after consuming about 60 percent of collected NWFPs for personal use (Prasad, 1985). In the Indian state of Manipur, nearly 90 percent of the population depends on forest products as a major source of their income and some 250,000 women are employed in collecting forest products (FAO, 1992).

Small-scale forest industries based on NWFPs provide part-time employment for hundreds of millions of people in the region. These small-scale enterprises are normally labour intensive, often family-based and generally require very small capital outlay. Members of even the poorest sectors of society are able to run such enterprises. Enterprises based on NWFPs are generally more accessible to disadvantaged groups and women, and they provide diverse opportunities for gainful employment and income for rural people.

Forest-based processing is one of the largest employment sectors, and one of the most widely available sources of income in rural areas. For example, in Southeast Asia, rattan collection alone is estimated to have an annual value of US$ 50 million, and processing rattan involves as many as half a million people (FAO, 1992). The collection of tendu leaves (Diospyros melanoxylon) for bidi cigarettes in India employs an estimated 7.5 million people part time in the off-peak agricultural season. Thus, NWFPs constitute an essential element of the income security base for many rural people in the region.

Many of these products are of considerable commercial importance, and, after passing through domestic market chains, they are ultimately channeled into international markets and thus contribute to the precarious foreign exchange resources of many nations in the region.

Historical perspective

International trade in such products as resins, camphor, edible birds' nests, incense woods, spices and condiments had been going on for centuries before European mercantile adventurers or natural historians ventured into the region. The forests of Borneo have been supplying NWFPs for two millennia (Hall, 1985).

Records show that trade in sandalwood oil dates back to the 12th century and by the 15th century, the oil attracted the attention of traders from the West. By 1910, the annual export of sandalwood had reached 600 tonnes (Menon, 1989). Export of an essential oil, Ylang Ylang, started from the Philippines in 1864.


The list of NWFPs entering international trade from the Asia-Pacific region is quite long. Reliable trade information is not available for many of them. This paper, however, attempts to list the major NWFPs from the region which are traded internationally.

Even for the products discussed here, complete information is not available. This report can at best be considered an attempt to put together bits and pieces of information, in the hope that it will provide a basis for bridging the gaps in information in due time.

This report relies on the recent work of the author on international trade in NWFPs (Iqbal, 1993). It has been supplemented with information relevant to countries of the Asia-Pacific region. Information has also been obtained from the UNCTAD database.

Trade statistics, as far as they do exist, are to be considered with much thought, as a very large volume of NWFPs are traded unregistered. Under-reporting or no reporting at all, double counting, inconsistent grouping of NWFPs, and the use of unrealistic prices are among the systematic shortcomings of these statistics. Such statistics, however, are the starting point for information, and can be considered indicative of actual trade. A study of this nature would never be complete without first hand information from traders in the producing countries. This, however, was not possible for this study, and reliance had to be made on secondary sources of information.

Main products

Edible products

A variety of non-wood forest products- are collected from the forests of the region for use as human food, but morels, sago, pine nuts, birds' nests and bamboo shoots are the major food products which enter international markets from the region.


A wide variety of mushrooms are collected from natural forests and consumed locally. Some of them are also traded in local markets as an additional source of income. For example, a considerable quantity of a very valuable mushroom (possibly Lentinus edodes) is collected from the forests in northern Vietnam and sold after drying for 25,000 to 45,000 Dong (US$ 3.10 to 5.60) per kilogramme of dry weight (de Beer, 1993). Growing and collecting wild or semi-wild mushrooms is now a significant use of forest lands in Thailand. The mushrooms support a thriving export trade in many countries in the region, bringing solid benefits to all concerned in their collection, processing and marketing.

Morels: Morels, or black mushrooms of the genus Morchella, are widely gathered by an army of men, women and children in the temperate forests of Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, and China and traded internationally in large quantities. Urban entrepreneurs buy them from local collectors and transport them in dried form to overseas markets, especially to Europe, where demand for them as gourmet or specialty foods consistently exceeds local or regional supplies, and prices are uniformly high.

Outside the Asia-Pacific region, morels grow in many European countries, the USA and Canada, but none of these supply the international trade of morels.

Total world production is estimated to be approximately 150 tonnes. Pakistan and India are the main producing countries. Each produces about 50 tonnes of dry morels annually (equivalent to 500 tonnes of fresh morels); all of which are exported.

France, Switzerland and Germany are the main importers of dried morels from Pakistan and India. According to unpublished records of the International Trade Center (ITC), the imports of dried morels to European Economic Community (EEC) countries and Switzerland, range between 100 to 120 tonnes per annum.

Morels command very high prices. In Pakistan, the price of morels has risen constantly from Rs. 80 per kilogramme of dried mushrooms in 1962 to the current level (f.o.b.) of more than Rs. 4,000 ($US 133.00 per kilogramme. The gatherers, however, get one-half to two-thirds of the export price (Iqbal, 1991).

Pine mushrooms: Pine mushrooms (Boletus luteus) grow spontaneously under plantations of Pinus radiata in the USA, Europe, South America and New Zealand. The first specimens appear in the fourth year after planting and reach their peak of production in the seventh year. The yield then continues at a more or less constant level till the 15th year, when the dense foliage prevents penetration of sufficient sunlight. These highly nutritious mushrooms are gathered by the local inhabitants, dried in the sun to reduce the moisture content to about 35 percent, and then sold to exporters in sliced, dehydrated or preserved form.

New Zealand is the only country in the region where pine mushrooms are produced. Production estimates for the years 1990, 1991 and 1992 are 944, 324 and 773 tonnes, respectively, according to the National Progress Reports on Forestry of Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission, 15th Session, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The latest trade information for pine mushrooms is not available because information on mushrooms of various categories is grouped together by UNCTAD. According to the Chilean Forestry News, June 1982, Chile exported 943 tonnes of pine mushrooms in 1981, valued at US$ 2,031,863 (f.o.b). The main overseas markets were the USA, France, Peru and to a lesser extent, Holland, Switzerland, Ethiopia, Italy and a few others.

Other mushrooms: Other kinds of mushrooms can be cultivated, or "semi-cultivated" after transfer from their natural habitat to compost. In Bhutan, for example four kinds of oyster mushrooms (Ostreus spp.) are grown in yearround rotation on forest logs injected with fungal spores or in compost mixtures made from forest litter. As a result of UNDP/FAO input, export of canned oyster mushrooms to neighboring countries (India, Bangladesh and Nepal) has become a major source of export revenue for Bhutan (FAO, 1993).


Sago (Metroxylon spp.) is a fresh water palm, which grows naturally over a wide area, extending from Thailand in the west to the Santa Cruz Islands in the east and from Mindanao (Philippines) in the north to Timor (Indonesia) in the south (Menon, 1989). It is also widely cultivated.

Indonesia and Malaysia are the two major producing countries. Indonesia produced 47,206 tonnes of sago flour in 1984 (Menon, 1989). During 1991, Indonesia exported 10,107.7 tonnes of sago flour and meal to Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, worth US$ 2.32 million (f.o.b.), at an average price of US$ 230 per tonne.

Malaysia produces good quality sago and exports nearly all of its production. It's production, however, is quite limited. During 1991, for example, it exported only 3 tonnes to Brunei Darussalam.

Bamboo shoots

Bamboo shoots represent an expanding and fashionable export market, valued annually at over US$ 20 million from Taiwan alone. Shoot production varies by species and locality. In China, Phyllostachys pubescens shoots comprise 18 to 30 percent of the total annual production of about 1 million tonnes (Sulthoni, 1989). Nearly 100 species of bamboo in China produce edible shoots. In Thailand, 8 to 15 percent of the total shoot production comes from plantations of Dendrocalamus asper.

Thailand exported 31,730 tonnes of canned bamboo shoots in 1989, valued at 460.62 million baht ($US 18.4 milion), according to Thailand's Foreign Agriculture Trade Statistics provided by the Office of Agriculture Economics, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. The bulk of the exports went to the USA and Japan, followed by the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, France and the Republic of Korea. Japan is the main market for bamboo shoots in Asia. Small quantities of bamboo -shoots are also exported from Indonesia.


Pine nuts: Kernels of Chalghoza pine (Pinus gerardiana) constitute a popular dry fruit in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and many Middle Eastern countries. Chalghoza pine is a medium-sized tree, growing naturally at an elevation of 1,800 to 3,000 metres in the dry temperate forests of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Production varies from year to year, with good seed production cycles occuring every fifth year.

According to the National Progress Reports on Forestry, Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (15th Session, Colombo, Sri Lanka) production estimates for the years 1990, 1991 and 1992 were reported to be 868, 715 and 435 tonnes, respectively. The bulk of the production comes from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Small quantities are also produced in India.

Pakistan exports about 120 tonnes of pine nuts annually to a number of Middle Eastern countries. The average wholesale price within Pakistan ranges from Rs. 40,000 to 50,000 ($US 1,330 to 1,670) per tonne, whereas the export price ranges from US$ 3,600 to 4,300 per tonne.

Malva nuts: Sterculia lychnophora is a large tree which grows naturally in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. One tree yields about 40 kilogrammes of nuts yearly. Annual production in Vietnam is 235 tonnes. Laos exports malva nuts to France, where they sell at a price of US$ 1.50 per kilogramme (de Beer, 1993)

Walnuts: Walnuts are an important NWFP in China, India, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the walnut tree (Juglans regia) is an important broad-leaved associate of temperate coniferous forests. The tree is also widely cultivated.

China produces 100,000 tonnes of walnuts annually from an area of one million hectares. Annual exports of walnuts from China are estimated to be 47,000 tonnes (Kunshan, 1991). Current export prices (c.i.f) of Indian and Chinese walnuts (shelled) range from US$ 2,500 to 3,000 per tonne, according to information from The Public Ledger's Commodity Week, July 3 1993.

Based on the UNCTAD database, the total value of the world's trade in walnuts in 1992 was about US$ 331.238 million. Of this, 35 percent was for walnuts in the shell, and 65 percent for walnuts without the shell. EEC, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Austria and Hong Kong are the major markets. Nearly onefourth of all walnuts traded come from the Asia-Pacific region: China (16.6 percent), India (6.8 percent), Iran (0.03 percent), Afghanistan (0.03 percent) and Pakistan (0.02 percent). Outside the Asia-Pacific region, USA, Turkey, Chile, Hungary and Argentina are the main suppliers of walnuts.

Chestnuts: Total production of chestnuts (Castanea spp.) in Asia and the Pacific was reported to be 85,043, 89,747 and 110,747 tonnes, respectively, during 1990, 1991 and 1992. China is the major producer and exporter of chestnuts in the region. China's chestnut plantations grow over an area of 300,000 hectares; and the country has an annual production of 33,000 tonnes, accounting for one-tenth of the world's total. China exports 25,000 tonnes of chestnuts annually, mostly to Japan, earning about US$ 50 million.

Vietnam also produces between 70 and 134 tonnes of chestnuts per annum (de Beer, 1993). The Republic of Korea is another important producer and exporter of chestnuts in the region.

Outside the Asia-Pacific region, Spain is the major producer of chestnuts, where Castanea sativa covers over 160,000 hectares, yielding 12,000 to 40,000 tonnes of chestnuts. About 15 to 20 percent of the production is not picked and falls on the ground, where it is consumed by domestic livestock or game animals (FAO/ECE, 1988).

Based on the UNCTAD database for 1992, the total world market for chestnuts is about US$ 110 million. Japan, USA, Switzerland, Hong Kong (entrepot) and Austria are the major markets, collectively accounting for 87.28 percent of the world's imports. China provides 69 percent of the supplies to these markets, with the Republic of Korea accounting for another 6.7 percent. Thus, the Asia-Pacific region provides more than 75 percent of the chestnuts traded internationally.

Gingko nuts: Gingko biloba is a "living fossil" tree, belonging to Pteridophyta. It is native to China, where its fruits are collected and consumed as a food and as a medicine. The fruits are rich in starch, fat, protein and a variety of vitamins. Total annual production is estimated at 5,000 tonnes, most of which is exported at a value of about US$ 7 million (Kunshan, 1991). A product from Gingko biloba is the most widely used of all medicines in Germany, in 1989 accounting for over 5 million prescriptions, the majority for the treatment of tinnitus (Lewington, 1993).

Jujube fruit: Drupaceous fruits of the Zizyphus species which grow in forests and farmlands in many African and Asian countries are collected and consumed by local communities. Extra supplies are sun-dried and stored for future consumption. The fruits are also sold, dry or fresh, for supplementary income.

China is the only country in the region known to be exporting jujube fruits. Kunshan (1991) reported that in China the jujube tree grows over an extensive area of 240,000 hectares. Annual output of fresh jujube is estimated to be 400,000 tonnes. Average Chinese annual exports are 4,700 tonnes of dry jujube, earning US$ 5 million.

Total production estimates of jujube fruit for the Asia-Pacific region were estimated to be 5,953, 7,577 and 11,216 tonnes, respectively, for 1990, 1991 and 1992. These figures do not include Chinese production of 400,000 tonnes annually.

Salanganes' or birds' nests

Edible birds' nests are built by two species of cave dwelling swiftlet, Collocalia fuciphaga and C. maxima living in Borneo, Peninsular Malaysia and Thailand. Although not eaten by the local people, they are collected for sale to Chinese at home and abroad. The sticky secretion of the glands of the nest-builders is the key ingredient in a soup prized by the Chinese for its delicacy and healing properties. The black nests of C. maxima incorporate feathers which must be removed, and hence the nests are less valuable than the clean "white" nests of C. fuciphaga (de Beer and McDermott, 1989).

Malaysia is the major producer and exporter of birds' nests. Malaysian exports in 1991 totalled 18.6 tonnes, which went primarily to Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Taiwan, for a value of 2.93 million Malaysian dollars ($US 1.2 million), (i.e. an average f.o.b. price of M$ 157.62 [US$ 63.00] per kilogramme).

Edible oils

Tengkawang or Illipe nut: All tengkawang trees producing oil-bearing seeds of commercial value belong to the meranti group (Shorea spp.). In international markets, these seeds are known as illipe nuts, although true illipe nuts come from the Indian madhuca trees.

The oil extracted from the nuts closely resembles cocoa butter in its physicochemical properties. It can easily blend with other vegetable fats such as palm-mid fraction, sal and shea stearin. This makes it a potential replacement for cocoa butter fat. In Japan and Singapore, it is used in the manufacturing of chocolate, soap, candles and cosmetics, and even as a lubricant.

Indonesia is the main producer and exporter of tengkawang nuts. Almost the entire production is exported. Details on Indonesian exports of black and brown illipe seeds during 1992 are given in table 1.

In India, sal forests occur over an area of 11,437,900 hectares. Data on current production is not available, but the entire production is consumed domestically.

Spices and condiments

Nutmeg and mace: The nutmeg of commerce is a seed of Myristica fragrans and mace is the aril that surrounds the seed. Nutmeg is an evergreen tree belonging to the family Myrticaceae. It is indigenous to the Moluccas in Indonesia, but is now cultivated in other countries like India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. Outside the Asia-Pacific region, Grenada is an important producer of nutmeg and mace, ranking second to Indonesia.

Indonesia accounts for three-quarters of world production and export. Indonesia produced 15,800 tonnes of nutmeg in 1990, according to Agricultural Products, November 1 99 1.

In 1991, Indonesian exports of nutmeg and mace rose to 7,335 tonnes and 1,547 tonnes, respectively, compared with 6,39-1 tonnes and 1,050 tonnes in 1990.

The nutmeg market is facing depression and prices are persistently falling, primarily because of oversupply. In August 1992, nutmeg's price on the London market was £ 1,115 (US$ 1,850) per tonne, having fallen to the lowest point in two years. Mace prices, on the other hand, improved, attaining a peak of £3,645 ($US 6,075) per tonne in November 1992, compared with £ 2,915 (US$ 4,850) per tonne in June 1992.

Cinnamon and Cassia: True cinnamon and cassia spices are the prepared, dried bark of trees belonging to genus Cinnamomum, indigenous to south and Southeast Asia and China. True cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum, which originates from Sri Lanka and southern India has been introduced to many other areas, notably Madagascar and the Seychelles.

The major Cassia species of international importance are C. cassia (China), C. burmannii (Indonesia) and C. loureirii (Vietnam). C. tamala is also traded, but is considered to be of inferior quality (Smith, 1986). A classification system has evolved on the basis of species and origin, because each type has a distinctive flavour and other characteristics.

Cinnamon and cassia are often used interchangeably. Their major uses are in bakery goods, as seasonings for meat, fish, preserved fruit and vegetables, and in curry powders, beverages, tea, desserts, and some pharmaceuticals.

World trade in cinnamon is between 7,500 to 10,000 tonnes annually. Sri Lanka contributes 80 to 90 percent of the total production, with most of the remaining balance coming from the Seychelles and Madagascar (Smith' 1986). The world trade in cassia is between 20,000 to 25,000 tonnes annually, of which Indonesia accounts for two-thirds, and China for most of the remainder. Minor producers include Vietnam and India. About 2,000 to 3,000 tonnes of cassia bark are exported from Vietnam annually (de Beer, 1993). The USA, EEC, and Japan are the major markets.

Table 1. Indonesian exports of illipe nuts during 1992


Quantity (tonnes)


Price (f.o.b) (USS/tonne)

Black illipe




Brown illipe








Source: Indonesia Foreign Trade Statistics, Biro Pusat Statistik.

Cardamom: Although true cardamom (Eleutaria cardamomum) is a perennial cultivated herb, false cardamom or bastard cardamom is obtained from Afromomum spp. in Africa and Amomum spp. in Southeast Asia.

Amomum sp. is a herb which grows under forest cover. Its seeds are used as a spice. In Laos, it grows naturally and is cultivated. Laos exports 400 tonnes or more of cardamom per year via Thailand and China. In Cambodia, it occurs in the Cardamom Mountains. Cambodia used to be an important exporter in the past, but exports no known quantities today (de Beer, 1993). A small quantity of cardamom is also produced from wild sources in northern Vietnam, from where about 10 tonnes are exported to Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore each year.

Galanga: Galanga is a herbaceous plant (Alpinia officinarum) occurring naturally in Vietnam and Laos. It is also cultivated in home gardens. The root is used in Vietnamese and Lao cuisine as a ginger-like spice. It is also used in local medicine. There is a market for galanga in Asia, while some small quantities are imported by the Netherlands (de Beer, 1993).

Plant gums

Gum Tragacanth

Gum tragacanth is an important commercial gum produced by several shrubby plants of the genus Astragalus, which grow from Pakistan to Greece, particularly in Iran and Turkey (Anderson, 1989). The exudate is produced spontaneously on the bark of the shrub, but the yield is often increased by making an incision and driving wooden wedges into it.

Iran is the main producing country within the Asia-Pacific region. Small quantities are also produced in Afghanistan, but export consignments are very rare. About 70 percent of supplies originate from Iran. According to Agricultural Products, November 1991, Iran's average annual production potential has been estimated at 400 tonnes.

Outside the region, Turkey is the main producer. The gum is also known to be produced in Syria, but export consignments are very rare.

Iran's export of tragacanth was 91 tonnes in 1987, increasing to 142 tonnes in 1988. The export volume further increased to 176 and 257 tonnes in 1989 and 1990, respectively. Thus, there was an increase of 182 percent in 1990, over exports in 1987. With this growth rate, it is expected that Iran may very soon be able to export 400 tonnes of the product.

Tragacanth finds markets in many different countries, but the EEC, USA, Japan and the former Soviet Union are the major importing regions.

Gum Karaya

Also known as Indian tragacanth, this gum is obtained almost exclusively from Indian plantations of Sterculia urens and smaller plantations of S. villosa.

World production of gum karaya is currently about 5,500 tonnes per annum, but is declining. India is the only regular producer, overwhelmingly dominating international trade in the gum. Indigenous consumption of gum karaya is very little; only lower grades are consumed in the country.

In 1991-92, India exported 573.6 tonnes of gum tragacanth, mainly to Japan, France, the USA, West Germany, UK, Belgium, Italy, UAE and the Netherlands, in that order. According to monthly statistics on foreign trade from the Directorate General of Commercial Trade and Statistics, Government of India (1991-92), the total value of exports was about 49 million Indian rupees (US$ 1.6 million), or an average price of Rs. 85,337 (US$ 2,850) per tonne. There is significant reexport trade from European ports. The USA consumes roughly one-half of gum karaya production and Western Europe around 30 percent.


A variety of oleoresins are tapped from various plants. Among the important ones are pine oleoresin obtained from pine trees, damar resin from Dipterocarpus spp., gamboge and yang oil from Dipterocarpus spp., benzoin from Styrax spp., copal from Agathis dammara, and dragon's blood (rattan resin) from rattan palms. Although all the resins mentioned appear in the international market, pine oleoresin is the most important.

Pine oleoresin

Resin tapping from pine trees is perhaps the best known extractive use of forests and it remains one of the largest industries in the non-wood forest products sector. It was first used in the days of wooden ships, when pitch and tar derived from resin were essential sealants for ship hulls, hence the name "gum naval stores" still persists for such resins. Today their main use is in the production of turpentine and rosin, also known as gum turpentine and gum rosin.

Rosin is utilised in the paper, synthetic rubber, printing ink, paint and adhesive industries. Turpentine, apart from being a universally recognised paint solvent, is a base material in the production of camphor, insecticides, and perfumery.

World production of pine oleoresin has remained almost stable at between 1.1 and 1.2 million tonnes over the past 20 years (En, 1987). Dominant producers in the Asia-Pacific region are China and Indonesia. Chinese production of gum turpentine, although the largest in the world, is consumed domestically and does not enter international trade. Estimates of Chinese production of rosin and turpentine are 400,000 tonnes and 460,000 tonnes, respectively (Kunshan, 1991).

Indonesia has experienced a dramatic increase in gum resin production over the last decade and it is now one of the largest producers and exporters. Pine (Pinus merkusii) plantations which are tapped for resin, grow over an area of 73,400 hectares in Indonesia. Gum turpentine exports from Indonesia increased from around 3,400 tonnes in 1988 to 7,200 tonnes in 1992. India, which buys more than 50 percent of production, is Indonesia's biggest market.

India, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka and the Republic of Korea are other important producers in the region, although production is small and consumed locally. Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Greece, Turkey and Argentina are other producing countries outside Asia and the Pacific, although production is mostly confined to meeting domestic needs, rather than for export (Copper, 1994). The USA and Japan are the major markets for gum rosin.


Damar is obtained by tapping various trees of the dipterocarpus family (e.g., Dipterocarpus alatus, Anisoptera oblonga, Cotylelobium melanoxylon, Hopea odorata, Shorea hypochra, S. vulgaris, S. obtusa, S. talura S. thorelli, S. guiso, etc.). It is also produced by excretions of insects which feed in the intercellular spaces in the bark of these species. The oleoresin produced is used in making natural paint, varnish, printing ink and glue, and for caulking boats.

Indonesia is the leading producer and exporter of damar . in the region. Information on current production and exports could not be collected for this study. However, the average value of Indonesian exports of damar between 1983 and 1987 was US$ 1.274 million (de Beer and McDermott, 1989). Some damar from Indonesia- enters the European market (Germany and France) via Thailand and Singapore (de Beer, 1993).

Thailand is the second major producer of damar in the region. Chuntanaparb and Hoamuangkaew (1985) reported average annual Thai damar exports of 1,072 tonnes, with an average price of 6.92 million baht (US$ 275,000) between 1979 and 1983.

Laos and Vietnam also produce damar. Laos produces between 500 and 1,000 tonnes a year, most of which is exported to Thailand. Vietnam produces about 500 tonnes per year.


Gamboge is a bright yellow resin obtained from trees of the genus Garcinia. It is used as a pigment for paints and inks arid as a medicine. A small quantity is produced in Thailand. Chuntanaparb and Hoamuangkaew (1985) reported average annual Thai exports of 6 tonnes, valued 1.6 million baht (US$ 64,000).

Yang oil

Yang oil is obtained by tapping trees of Dipterocarpus spp. It is used as a preservative of wood and bamboo; for waterproofing umbrellas and bamboo baskets; in paints, varnishes and printing inks; for caulking boats and in making medications. It is also used to produce balsam oil for perfume base. Indonesia and Thailand are the major producers and exporters in the region.

Chuntanaparb and Hoamnangkaew (1985) reported average annual Thai production of 2.3 million litres and exports of 140 tonnes (average value 39.6 million baht, or US$ 1.58 million).


Benzoin is tapped from the tree, Styrax tonkinensis. The resin is mainly used in the fragrance industry as a base material for high class perfumes and balms. Laos produces over 100 tonnes annually, which are exported to France and China, at prices ranging between US$ 15 to 22 per kilogramme. Vietnam exports about 10 tonnes per year to France (de Beer, 1993). The only other exporter of benzoin in the region is Indonesia, but the resin is of a lesser quality. Indonesia exported US$ 10,269 worth of gum benzoin during 1985 (de Beer and McDermott, 1989).


Natural rubber

The rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) originated in the Amazonian region of Brazil and has been planted on a large scale in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, where an area of 7.2 million hectares is estimated to be planted with rubber. Natural rubber is a raw material used for the production of a number of products; one of the most important being automobile tires.

Indonesia and Malaysia are the world's leading producers of natural rubber. In 1992, according to the Rubber Statistical Bulletin 47(7) of the International Rubber Study Group, Indonesia and Malaysia together account for 47 percent of the world's total output of 5.54 million tonnes of rubber. Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, China and Myanmar are other producers in Asia and the Pacific. Major importers are the USA, Japan and the EEC. .

Gutta Percha

Gutta Percha is a tough plastic-like substance from the latex of several Malaysian trees of the genera Payena and Palaquium of the sapodilla family. It resembles rubber, but contains more resin. It is used as insulation and in dentistry. Malaysia and Indonesia are major producers of gutta percha. Small quantities are also produced in Thailand.

The total value of the world trade in gutta percha and other similar latexes was about US$ 26.73 million in 1991. Japan, EEC, the USA, Korea, China and Australia are the major markets, which together accounted for more than 90 percent of the world imports during 1991. In these markets, the contribution of Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai supplies of gutta percha were 32 percent, 15 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

Fibres and flosses


In Southeast Asia, climbing palms or rattans are commercially the second most important forest product after timber. Rattan is a source of multiple products such as chairs, beds, cupboards, bookshelves, mats, carpets, kitchen utensils, umbrellas, flower vases, and sports goods. Producing countries are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Bangladesh.

On the basis of trade statistics from 1988 to 1992, the average value of the world trade in rattan has been estimated to be in the order of US$ 66 million. The entire production and trade originates from the Asia and Pacific region. Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and China are the major producers, each contributing 19.5 percent, 15.9 percent, 14.0 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively, to the world's rattan trade. Small quantities also originate from Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines and Cambodia. The EEC, Japan and the USA are the main markets. Singapore and Hong Kong are the primary entrepots.

Indonesia used to dominate the world trade in raw rattan, accounting for about 80 to 90 percent of the trade until a ban was imposed on export of raw rattan in 1979, followed by another ban on export of semi-processed rattan in 1988. These bans were imposed to encourage domestic downstream processing.

Hong Kong is one of the most important rattan processing centers in the region. The city's average annual exports of rattan articles during the period 1980 to 1982 were worth HK$ 201 million (US$ 25 million), of which 67 percent was furniture and 33 percent other rattan articles (Prasad, 1985).


Bamboo has been in use from time immemorial for a variety of purposes. China, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, the Philippines and Vietnam are the major producing countries in Asia and the Pacific. Total annual harvests are estimated at 20 million tonnes.

Total world trade in bamboo was about US$ 23.4 million in 1988, and US$ 44.9 million in 1992, nearly doubling over the 5-year period. According to the COMTRADE database, the average value of exports from 1988 to 1992 was US$ 36.2 million. China accounted for 65.7 percent of the exports in 1992, followed by Thailand (10.1 percent). Malaysia, Burma, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Bangladesh were minor exporters.

In 1992, the EEC countries were the major markets for bamboo, collectively accounting for 53 percent of the world's total imports. Of the EEC countries, France, Germany and the Netherlands were the major importers, accounting for 17.1 percent, 14.4 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively, of the world's total imports.


Kapok is a mass of silky fibre that surround the seeds of the ceiba tree (Bombax ceiba) and is used to fill mattresses, life preservers, and sleeping bags, and as insulation. The tree grows in many South and Southeast Asian countries, but Thailand and Indonesia are the world's main suppliers of kapok. Japan, China, the EEC and the USA are the major markets. In 1992, according to the UNCTAD database, the total value of world trade in kapok was about US$ 11.394 million, of which about 66 percent was contributed by Thailand, and 16 percent by Indonesia.

Vegetable Tannin

Several forest trees are a source of tanning materials used to preserve and soften animal hides such as leather. In Asia and the Pacific, the most common trees yielding tannin are mangrove species, Acacia spp., Terminalia spp., and Cassia spp.

Outside the region, quebracho, mimosa and chestnuts (QMC), oaks and wattles are important tannin-yielding plants. Black wattle (Acacia mearsii) plantations are an important source of tannin in Kenya and Tanzania.

Vegetable tannin is used mainly in curing hides and skins to make finished leather. Large quantities are also used in drilling for oil to control the viscosity and water loss of drilling fluids. Vegetable tannin is also used in the food, metallurgical and pharmaceutical industries, and for water softening.

According to the COMTRADE database, the total value of the world's trade in vegetable tannin extracts (HS No. 3201) was about US$ 123.3 million in 1991. In 1991, 50 percent of the world's supplies of traded vegetable tannin extracts originated from Argentina (34 percent) and Brazil (16 percent). Thailand, China, Japan, Singapore, Australia, India, Pakistan, Malaysia and the Republic of Korea accounted for 12.5 percent of world exports.

The USA, Italy, Russia and Japan are the major markets for vegetable tannin.


Katha and cutch are extracted from the heartwood of Acacia catechu which grows naturally, as well as in plantations, particularly in India and Thailand (RAPA, 1992). Katha is an important ingredient in pan and pan masala which are chewed. Cutch is used as a tanning agent for leather; as a cheap dye for canvas, fishing nets, mail bags, etc.; and as a viscosity modifier for drilling mud. Purified cutch is also used for tanning, preparation of toilet products, staining wood, dyeing fabrics in black or brown, and medicinally for treating diarrhea.

India is the largest producer of these products in the region, although estimates of actual production are not available. Small quantities are also exported.

Insect products


Trade in lac and lacquerwork depends on an insect product - the gummy secretion exuded by the female lac insect (Techandria lacca), which feeds on a number of forest trees in many parts of the region. Lac production varies considerably from year to year in relation to weather conditions. Markets for lacquerwork products are changing dramatically as mass-produced plastic substitutes for these items flood local and urban markets. However, export trade in lacquerware handicrafts has shown healthy growth and larger, mechanized factories have sprung up to cater to this trade. In Chanapata in Karnatka State, India, lacquerwork employs more than 35 percent of the total work force. Annual production in 1991 was worth some US$ 300,000 and 70 percent of total production was exported.

Lac is produced in a number of countries in the region, including India, Thailand, Myanmar, China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos. Total annual production is estimated to be 20,000 tonnes. India and Thailand are the major producers, each producing an average of about 6,000 tonnes per year. While Thailand exports the bulk of its production, India consumes almost half domestically. According to the China Agricultural Yearbook in 1990, China produced 1,482 tonnes in 1988 and 833 tonnes 1989. Laos also produces about 100 tonnes annually, part of which is exported (de Beer, 1993). Vietnam exports, on an average, about 300 tonnes of lac and stick lac annually (Tien, 19913. Lac is exported to about 45 countries, but Germany, Italy, Egypt, Indonesia and the USA are the major markets.


Honey is highly valued for its high energy content (more than 280 calories per 100 grammes). It is a key item in subsistence diets, particularly in the "hungry season" prior to harvesting plant crops. The blossoms of forest trees and plants growing below the forest canopy provide a year-round supply of food for bees. Trade in honey, beeswax and royal jelly contribute significantly to the national treasuries of many countries in the region. Village-level bee keeping in India alone yields an estimated 37,000 tonnes of honey a year.

Honey is in vogue as a health food in Europe, Japan, North America and other affluent regions. This has boosted demand for natural honey in recent years. Growth in honey production and improvements in beekeeping techniques have assumed high priority in countries like Thailand.

Forest honey: Forest honey is produced mainly by Apis dorsata, and constitutes an important non-wood forest product in many developing countries. It is a source of food, a tonic and a medicine for local communities. It is also a source of revenue for governments. In some countries like Bangladesh and Thailand, honey collection is controlled and organised by forestry departments through the issuing of collection permits. In other countries, the forest dwellers collect it free of charge for domestic consumption or sale.

In Bangladesh, the Sundarbans forests are a main source of honey, yielding on average about 220 tonnes of honey and 55 tonnes of wax annually (ADB, 1992). Small quantities of beeswax are occasionally exported from Bangladesh.

About 350 tonnes of honey and 28 tonnes of wax are collected from forests in India. A single natural hive may yield about 35 kilogramme of honey and 1 kilogramme of wax (Gupta and Guleria, 1982). Annual collection of honey from forest areas in Pakistan has been estimated to be 55 to 60 tonnes (Iqbal, 1991).

In Vietnam, about 200 to 400 tonnes of forest honey are marketed annually. Forest honey earns a better price than cultured honey because of its good taste and medicinal qualities. One litre of honey from the Mekong delta costs 10,000 to 40,000 Dong (1991 price), whereas one litre of ordinary honey fetches a price of only 6,000 Dong (de Beer, 1993).

Several provinces in Laos produce fine qualities of forest honey. Most is traded locally, but small quantities are sold to neighboring countries. A small factory has recently been established to process and pack forest-honey for export to Thailand and Europe (de Beer, 1993).

Because it is free of agro-chemical residues, forest honey has the potential to be marketed as "organic honey". Good potential exists for international trade if production and quality can be enhanced by integrating beekeeping with forest management.

Cultured Honey: Honey obtained from Apis mellifera and A. cerana in modern apiaries is an important commodity in international trade, although its status as an NWFP may be debatable because it may not originate directly from forests. Forests and cultivated trees do play a role as a source of nectar and pollen for apiary bees. One tree may provide as much nectar and pollen for honey bees as is provided by a hundred or even a thousand smaller plants (Holmes and Heinker, 1978). Some forest plants like Acacia modesta and Plectranthus rugosus are well-known for producing the best quality honey in the Himalayan region, and beekeepers in Pakistan shift their bees to the mountains each summer to forage.

According to FAO statistics, world production of natural honey was estimated to be 1.19 million tonnes in 1991. Production has followed an upward trend in recent years. China, which contributed 17 percent to the world's total production during 1991 is the major producer of natural honey in Asia and the Pacific. Outside the region, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the USA, Mexico, and Turkey are the major producing countries which respectively contributed 20 percent, 8 percent, 6 percent and 4 percent to total world production in 1991.

According to the FAO Trade Yearbook in 1991, world trade in honey rose from 287,191 tonnes in 1989, worth US$ 295.3 million, to 317,580 tonnes in 1991, worth US$ 317.6 million. In 1991, the developing countries collectively accounted for 68.6 percent of total honey exports, compared with 55.5 percent in 1983.

World exports have been steadily rising since 1975. In 1991, world exports were 26.7 percent of the volume of world production compared with 26.5 percent in 1983 and 19.0 percent in 1976. Considerable expansion of world demand for honey has been caused inter alia by increased interest in natural and health food products and higher living standards. Germany, the USA, the United Kingdom and Japan are the major world markets.


Beeswax is a natural wax secreted by various species of honey bee. It is obtained from old and damaged combs and from the caps bees make to cover honey cells. A substantial portion of beeswax exported from developing countries comes from the combs of wild bees, which are damaged during honey collection.

In the absence of any reliable estimates of beeswax production, a fair estimate can be made by assuming beeswax to be 1.5 to 2.5 percent of total honey produced (ITC, 1978). Thus, on the basis of FAO estimates of 1.19 million tonnes of honey produced in 1991, beeswax production is estimated to be in the range of 17,850 to 29,750 tonnes for the same period. These figures, however, are indicative only.

In world trade statistics, beeswax is grouped with other insect waxes. Nevertheless, beeswax is a major component of insect waxes, and the trade value can be safely assumed to be that of beeswax. Based on information derived from the COMTRADE database, the total value of insect waxes traded internationally in 1991 was US$ 23.35 million. In 1992, China was the leading exporting country in the world accounting for 14.9 percent of total exports.

Other major exporters included the United Republic of Tanzania, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Brazil, Japan, the USA and Ethiopia.


Another important insect product is silk from the larvae of the silkworm moth. Silkworm rearing, both mulberry and non-mulberry, is a highly labour intensive cottage industry. Mulberry cultivation is indispensable in rearing domesticated silkworms (Bombyx mori). Although most of the world's silk is produced under farmed conditions, demand for "wild silk" and the more robust silk fabrics such as tasar silk (widely cultivated on a cottage industry scale in India, Thailand and elsewhere in the region) has remained steady.

Non-mulberry or wild silkworms include eri, tasar, and muga. Eri silkworms (Philosamia ricini) and P. cynthia are reared on castor oil plant leaves to produce a brick-red silk, popularly known as "eri" silk. Tasar silkworms (Antheraea pernryi, A yamamai, A. mylitta) feed on oak, Terminalia and other host plants to produce "tasar" silk. Muga silkworms (Antheraea assama) are found only in the Indian state of Assam and feed on som (Machilius bombycina) and soalu (Litsaea polyantha), producing an unusual lustrous golden-yellow, attractive and strong silk.

The world's total production of raw silk was 76,761 tonnes in 1991 (ITC, 1992). Total production by the year 2000 is estimated at 85,000 tonnes (ITC, 1992). Although production has been rising gradually, the share of silk in total for all textile fibres remains very low (about 0.17 percent in 1989). However, the value of silk and silk products in international trade is quite significant because silk is a high value item.

The production pattern has changed over time. Within Asia and the Pacific, China and India have emerged as the world's largest producers of raw silk, whereas production in Japan and the Republic of Korea is declining. China produced 48,500 tonnes, or 64 percent of the world's total of silk in 1991, valued at US$ 2.1 billion.

India increased production to become the world's second largest producer of raw silk. India has the unique distinction of being the only country in the world producing all the commercially known varieties of silk mulberry, tasar (both tropical and temperate), eri, and muga. It ranks second to China as a mulberry silk producer and accounts for about 14 percent of the world's production of raw silk. It is also the second largest producer of tasar silk, following China. India is the only producer of golden-yellow muga silk.

Outside the Asia-Pacific region, Brazil has expanded its production and is emerging as an important silk producer. Production in the Commonwealth of Independent States has levelled off (ITC, 1992).

China is by far the world's largest producer and exporter of raw silk, accounting for a 90 percent share of global exports. The principal destinations of Chinese raw silk during 1990 were Western Europe (Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, and the UK), Japan, Hong Kong, India and the former USSR (ITC, 1992).

Brazil has recently emerged as an important exporter of raw silk and silk yarn, with modest but steadily rising exports directed to the Japanese mark-et. The Vietnamese are also rehabilitating their sericulture industry.

Insect galls

Some of the galls produced by insects are quite beneficial. The gall nuts of commerce, also called allepo, mecca, Chinese or Turkey galls, are produced on various species of oaks and other trees by Eurasian cynipid wasps. These galls, long used in parts of Asia to make dyes and medicines, are now processed for use in the tanning, ink and pharmaceutical industries. The chief active ingredients are astringent, tannic and garlic acids.

Within the Asia-Pacific region, Iran produces the best grades of insect galls containing more than 50 percent tannic acid. Outside the region, Turkey and Syria are important producers. No information on the trade of insect galls is available.

Live butterflies

Another commercial growth area in insect products is the trade in sustainably "ranched" live tropical butterflies. Many countries of the South Pacific, which have spectacular butterfly fauna, are profiting from this trade.

Incense woods


Eaglewood or aloeswood is a resinous incense wood, produced by diseased tissues of certain individuals of Aquilaria crassna, growing in Indochina. This highly valuable product is used in Chinese and South Asian medicine as well as for incense and cosmetics in the Middle East. The tree is found in the Annamite highlands in Laos and Vietnam and in the coastal mountains of Cambodia. Firstgrade eaglewood is valued at up to US$ 2,000 per kilogramme in Singapore.

Sandalwood (Cendana)

Indonesia is the main producer of the incense wood obtained from Santalum album. The average annual production of sandalwood has been estimated to be 588 tonnes, based on production data from 1968-69 and 1982-83 (Menon, 1989). The wood is mainly used for distillation of sandalwood oil. Indonesia used to be the major exporter of sandalwood, but to encourage domestic production of sandalwood oil, a ban was imposed on the export of sandal wood in December 1987.

Essential oils

China and India are the largest producers of essential oils in the region. The most common among the essential oils produced from forest plants in the region are summarized in table 2. A brief discussion of those having significance in international trade is also given, based on the recent work of Coppen (1994).

Cinnamon bark and leaf oil

Sri Lanka is virtually the only supplier of cinnamon bark oil and cinnamon leaf oil, extracted from the bark and leaves of the Cinnamomum vera tree. India produces very small amounts of leaf oil for domestic use only.

Cassia oil

China is the major producer and a dominant supplier of cassia (Cinnamomum cassia) oil. Annual production in China is estimated to be 500 tonnes. Small quantities of cassia oil are also produced in Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Nepal, but these are obtained from a species of Cinnamomum other than C. cassia.


Until the Second World War, Cinnamomum camphora was heavily exploited as a source of camphor in Japan and Taiwan. The species was introduced in India in 1950. Due to the availability of cheap synthetic camphor (ex turpentine), there is only modest demand for the natural form. This, combined with the availability of competitively priced Chinese natural camphor (US$ 3.65 per kilogramme in early 1994), does not make its production elsewhere particularly attractive.

Sassafras Oil

Cinnamomum camphora is also an important source of Chinese sassafras oil which is used principally as a raw material for the isolation of safrole. Next to China, Vietnam has emerged as an exporter of sassafras oil since 1990. Outside Asia and the Pacific, Brazil is the major producer and supplier of sassafras oil, where it is extracted from the trunkwood of Ocotea pretiosa. The supplies from this source, however, are declining as a result of depletion of the natural resource.

Table 2. Essential oils obtained from wild or cultivated plants of forest origin in the Asia-Pacific region


Botanical source

Main origins

Star anise

Illicium verum

China, Vietnam


Cedrus spp./ Juniperus spp.

India, Sri Lanka, China,


Cinnamomum verum/C. cassia

Sri Lanka (Cinnamon), China (Cassia), Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Vietnam


Cymbopogon spp.

Indonesia, China, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Taiwan,


Artemisia spp.

India, Pakistan


Eucalyptus spp.

China, Australia

Lemon grass

Cymbopogon flexuosus

India, China


Litsea cubeba



Myristica fragrans

Indonesia, Sri Lanka


Cymbopogon martini



Pogostemon cablin

Indonesia, China


Santalum album

India, Indonesia

Pemou oil

Fokienia hodginsii



Vetiveria zizanioides

Indonesia, China

Cajeput or Kayu putih

Melaleuca leucadendron

Malaysia, Indonesia

World demand for sassafras oil is estimated at 2,000 tonnes annually, of which more than half is supplied by China. Japan, Italy and the USA are the main markets for the oil.

Eucalyptus oils

The Asia-Pacific region dominates the world in the production and export of eucalyptus oils. China, India and Australia are the main eucalyptus oil producing countries within the region, whereas South Africa, Brazil, Switzerland, Chile, Spain, Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay are important producers outside the region.

The People's Republic of China is the largest producer of both cineole-rich medicinal oils (about 70 percent of world output and exports) and perfumery oil (from Eucalyptus citriodora). An area of 670,000 hectares is planted with eucalypts for oil production in China. India also produces small quantities (about 50 tonnes). Total world production of the medicinal type of eucalyptus oil is estimated to be 3,000 tonnes, and that of perfumery type at 15,000 tonnes. The EEC is the largest market for eucalyptus oils.

Sandalwood oil

Sandalwood (cendana) oil production and export is dominated by India and Indonesia. On the basis of production estimates from 1968-69 to 1982-83 (Menon, 1989), average annual production of sandalwood is estimated to be 588 tonnes. The bulk of the Indian production, however, is consumed domestically. Indian exports average about 40 tonnes a year, whereas Indonesian exports average around 15 tonnes per year.

The USA, France and the Middle East are the two largest importers of Indian sandalwood oil. The USA is also the chief destination of Indonesian sandalwood oil and is the biggest market for sandalwood oil outside India.

Listea cubeba oil

Listea cubeba oil is distilled from small pepper-like fruits of a small tree, Listea cubeba, which is native to China, Vietnam, Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia, where it occurs mainly in mountainous regions. World production and exports are dominated by China. Chinese production is estimated to be 1,500 tonnes per annum. Vietnam exports over 30 tonnes per year (de Beer, 1993). The USA, Western Europe and Japan are the major importers.


India and Indonesia are the only countries which export small quantities of olibanum. The bulk of Indian olibanum is used domestically for making incense sticks. The volume of exports, though erratic, averages around 90 tonnes per annum (Copper, 1994). Indonesian export statistics sometimes show export of frankincense, but the botanical source is not indicated. The bulk o incense resins (olibanum/frankincense, myrrh and opopanax) is produced outside the Asia-Pacific region. Somalia and Ethiopia are by far the biggest exporters of the three resins, whereas the People's Republic of China is the major importer.

Cedarwood oil

The People's Republic of China is the world's leading producer and exporter of cedarwood oil. Reliable production and export statistics, however, are not available. Chinese exports are about 400 to 500 tonnes per annum. India is the only other country in the region which produces cedarwood oil on a commercial scale. Current Indian production of cedarwood oil is estimated to be 25 tonnes per annum, but the bulk of it is consumed domestically. Average recorded exports of Indian cedarwood oil are less than 1 tonne per annum.

Vetiver oil

Vetiver oil is extracted from the roots of vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) and is used in fine fragrances, soaps, lotions, deodorants and other cosmetics. World production of vetiver is estimated to be 250 tonnes a year (BOSTID, 1993).

Indonesia (Java) and Reunion (a French island colony in the Indian Ocean) are the major producers within the Asia-Pacific region, and Haiti and the USA are the main producers outside the region. The value of world trade in vetiver oil was estimated to be US$ 3,172,000 during 1992, of which 36.6 percent originated in Haiti, 24.0 percent from Indonesia, 14.6 percent from the USA and 12.9 percent from Reunion.

The EEC, Switzerland, the USA and Japan are the main importers.

Cajeput or Kayu Putih oil

The Melaleuca leucadendron tree is well-known for the cajeput or kayu putih oil that is produced from its leaves and twigs by water or steam distillation. Kayu putih oil is widely used as a medicine and in the manufacture of insecticides and perfumes. However, the oil comes into direct competition with some substitutes or essential oils like eucalyptus oil.

Indonesia, where the Melaleuca tree has been planted over an area of 9,000 hectares, is the major producer of kayu putih oil in the region. Seven extraction plants, with an annual capacity of 32,000 tonnes of cajeput oil have been established. Actual production has shown a gradual increase from 1987 to 1991, when 303,368 litres were produced. The bulk of the oil is consumed domestically. The average annual export from 1980-1984 was 5.4 tonnes, with an average value of US$ 49,897 (Menon, 1989).

Vietnam also produces small quantities of cajeput oil. The area under Melaleuca forests is shrinking in Vietnam and only about 100,000 hectares remain in the Mekong delta. Besides meeting the requirements of the domestic pharmaceutical industry, about 50 tonnes are exported to Singapore annually (de Beer, 1993).

Pemou oil

Pemou oil is extracted from the roots and stumps of a large tree (Fokienia hodginsii), growing naturally in Vietnam. Vietnam used to be a regular supplier of the oil to Western Europe. This trade ended after supplies dried up during the war. At present, 50 tonnes of oil are exported annually to Czechoslovakia. Another 50 tonnes of powder is exported to Hong Kong and Singapore valued at US$ 350 per tonne (f.o.b.).

Medicinal plants

Medicinal plants are important in almost all the countries in the region. More than 50 percent of the population in the developing countries of the region is believed to be dependent on medicinal plants for curing various illnesses. There has recently been an upsurge in traditional medicine, mainly Ayurvedic, Unanai, and Chinese herbal medicine. In China alone, 5,000 of 35,000 species are used as drugs in Chinese traditional medicine (Husain, 1991). It is estimated that more than 2,000 species of medicinal value occur in India; about 1,000 in Peninsular Malaysia; 850 in the Philippines; 400 in Nepal; more than 200 in Thailand; and about 100 in Pakistan.

Some medicinal plants find their use in both traditional and Western medicines. Examples of such plants are Ephedra spp., Dioscorea sp., Anamirta cocculus, Cinnamomum camphora, Styrax benzoin and Mentha arvensis.

In addition to those medicinal plants which are sources of alkaloids, there are some which are highly valued as tonics. Ginseng (Panas ginseng), native to North Korea and the northeastern regions of the People's Republic of China, is now widely cultivated in China and in the Republic of Korea. China produces 40 percent of the world's total production. In 1991, the total value of international trade in ginseng was about US$ 215 million, of which 44.4 percent originated from the USA and 44.8 percent from countries in Asia and the Pacific, namely the Republic of Korea (29.1 percent), China (9.1 percent), Japan (3.5 percent), and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (3.1 percent).

About 4,000 to 6,000 botanicals are of commercial importance. Lewington (1993) reports that between 500 to 600 medicinal plants are traded via Hamburg. However, trade statistics for individual medicinal plants are difficult to estimate, because they are not itemised in national trade data. Only those plants entering a country in very large quantities are listed individually, but the situation is further complicated by the multiple use of such plants. For example, liquorice (Glycorrhiza spp.), in addition to being used as an expectorant and anti-inflammatory, has a multitude of other uses ranging from flavoring for chocolate, beer, tobacco and toothpaste, and as a stabilizing agent for foam in fire extinguishers (Lewington, 1993). In 1992, the total value of international trade in liquorice was US$ 0.94 million, of which the bulk (55.1 percent) originated from China (24.1 percent), Pakistan (23.7 percent) and Afghanistan (7.3 percent). Outside the region, Syria, Russia and Turkey are the major producers. In addition to ginseng and liquorice roots, cinchona bark, psyllium seeds and husks, belladonna, Duboisia spp., serpent wood, senna, periwinkle and berberis are the main medicinal plants entering international trade from countries in Asia and the Pacific.

Some of the essential oils, such as mint oil, eucalyptus oil, cinnamon leaf oil and oil of Cinnamomum camphora, are also used in medicine. This complexity was illustrated in the 1982 ITC report on Medicinal Plants and their Derivatives in the following words:

"It is not possible to assess the volume or value of the trade in all botanicals that are used medicinally because trade statistics do not identify all the plants individually and of those listed, the statistics do not identify medicinal and other uses separately. Products reported as medicinal plants often include gums, spices and plants used in the food industry, certain plant products include those used for teas and infusions, a large volume of plants such as pyrethrum are used in the manufacture of insecticides, plants used by the cosmetic industry are also included While hundreds of medicinal plants are items of commerce, details of the volume traded in most of these will only be obtained from individual traders and users."

Lewington (1993) reports that the medicinal plants trade is further complicated because of various levels of secrecy maintained by the traders and because of the complexity of the trade structure itself.

During 1992, total world trade in medicinal plants was about US$ 171.234 million, of which 20.9 percent originated from countries in Asia and the Pacific, namely, India (11.2 percent), China (3.8 percent), the Republic of Korea (2.2 percent), Thailand (1.3 percent), New Zealand (0.8 percent), Japan (0.7 percent), Pakistan (0.5 percent), Hong Kong (0.3 percent) and Indonesia (0.1 percent). India was the world's leading exporter of medicinal plants in 1992. Outside the region, the USA, Morocco, Argentina, Egypt and Yugoslavia were significant exporters, which together accounted for 37.5 percent of the world's exports.

The EEC (Germany and UK), Japan and the USA are the main importers. Hamburg (Germany) is the leading trading center for medicinal plants.

Wild plants

Many plants, particularly those produced in the tropical forests of the region, like orchids, palms, and pitcher plants, are prized throughout the world for their aesthetic qualities. Ferns, flowers, leaves, bark, seeds and other colorful, aromatic or symbolic plant materials are used fresh or processed (e.g. in paints or dyes) for personal adornment, ceremonial functions or artistic creations.

Ornamental plants are the basis of a multimillion dollar export trade centered in Singapore. Orchids constitute the most valuable component of the trade. The family Orchidaceae has numerous representatives found throughout the region. For instance, over 900 species have been recorded in Thailand and at least 341 have been collected in Sarawak (Chuntanaparb and Hoamuangkaew 1985; National Parks and Wildlife Office, Sarawak, 1986). Although nursery-bred specimens make up the bulk of this trade, the forest is still the original source. In addition to collection for commercial purposes, very rare and valuable species are smuggled from forests by specialist traders (de Beer and Mcdermott, 1989).

Industrial oils

Tung oil

Tung oil is extracted from the seeds of a large tree (Aleurites montana) which occurs naturally in some countries in the region, but is cultivated extensively in China and Vietnam. The seeds contain between 50 and 58 percent of a quick-drying oil. The oil is used for varnishes and is mixed with lac.

According to the UNCTAD database, China is the dominant exporter of tuna oil. In 988, out of the total value of US$ 11.86 million of world trade in tuna oil, 81.7 percent was supplied by China. Argentina and Paraguay are also major exporters, supplying 11.7 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively, in 1988.

Neem oil

The neem tree (Azadirachta indica) grows naturally in dry forest areas throughout all of south and Southeast Asia, including Assam, Myanmar, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Neem oil is extracted from neem kernels, which contain up to 50 percent oil by weight (BOSTID, 1992). Neem oil is used mainly in soaps, cosmetics and as a lubricant.

India is the leading producer and exporter of neem oil and its products. It has been estimated that India's neem trees bear 3.5 million tonnes of kernels each year, with a potential yield of 700,000 tonnes of oil. The annual production of neem oil in the late 1980s was around 150,000 tonnes, of which only 34 tonnes were exported in 1990 valued at 300,000 rupees (BOSTID, 1992).

Jojoba oil

Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) is a hardy shrub that grows in arid regions of northern Mexico and the southwestern USA. Australia is the only country in Asia where the shrub grows. It has also been introduced in Israel. Its seeds contain a liquid wax that has impressive industrial potential, as it is a substitute for sperm oil, normally obtained from endangered sperm whales.

The world's trade of jojoba oil valued at US$ 7.6 million in 1991, of which 91.1 percent was supplied by the USA, followed by Israel (6.7 percent), Mexico (1.8 percent), and Australia (0.3 percent).

Miscellaneous products

Bidi leaves

The leaves of the tendu tree (Diospyros melanoxylon), which grows naturally in many States in India, are used to wrap the small cheroots known as "bid)" that are popular throughout India and several neighboring countries. According to the country report of India presented at the 15th Session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission, India produces about half a million tonnes of bidi leaves a year, worth about US$ 200 million. Their gathering, processing and selling provides employment for at least half a million people.

India exported 4,675.6 tonnes of the bidi leaves in 1991-92, worth Rs. 183.5 million (US$ 6.1 million). The bulk of the exports went to Pakistan (74 percent) and Sri Lanka (25 percent).

Gupta and Guleria (1982) reported an average annual export of 3,681.4 tonnes of bidi leaves from 1967 to 1977, which when compared with current export figures, indicates an increasing trend in annual export volume of bidi leaves.

Gupta (1991) reported an average wholesale price of Rs. 15,000 (US$ 500) per tonne of bidi leaves. Based on export statistics for 1991-92, the average f.o.b price has been estimated to be Rs. 39,250 (US$ 1,308) per tonne. Thus, the export price is about 161 percent higher than the domestic price, indicating a high profit margin for the exporters.

Kobuak powder

Kobuak powder is obtained by grinding bark of trees of the Persea spp. and all parts (except the leaves) of Cinnamomum inners, which grows in Thailand. When mixed with water, the powder forms a sticky liquid which can be used as a glue. Thai exports of the product averaged 6,264 tonnes per year between 1979 and 1983, averaging 56.5 million baht (US$ 2.3 million) in value (Chuntanaparb and Hoamuangkaew, 1985).


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NWFPs often pass through numerosus domestic market channels before reaching international markets.

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