SPEAKING BEFORE the FAO Regional Conference for Europe in October 1962, EGON GLESINGER, Director of FAO's Forestry and Forest Products Division, told of the rise of imports of tropical hardwoods into Europe over recent years. The conference was discussing the prospects of the developing countries of the world to increase their foreign-exchange earnings from exports of agricultural products to Europe. For most commodities the prospects seemed indeed to be gloomy. The outlook for forest products, however, might be different.
FAO is just now undertaking a Timber Trends Study, reassessing the European situation in the light of the changes that have occurred since the first such study was published in 1963. The preliminary findings emphasize that Europe is already a wood-deficit region, its imports exceeding its exports in terms of roundwood equivalent. Possibilities for a further expansion of forest industries are limited since the region's own forest resources are almost fully utilized. Yet demand for industrial wood continues to rise and it is estimated that by 1975 the gap between Europe's industrial needs and supplies will have reached considerable proportions, regardless of the steps which may in the meantime be taken to push up forest yields.
If the trends have been correctly interpreted, Europe may quite soon have to import substantially increased quantities of raw materials, processed products, or both. These cannot all come from North America or the U.S.S.R., and this juncture would seem to spell opportunity for those developing countries which are favorably endowed with forest resources or with growing conditions that favor wood production.
Just now, on the other hand, there is the paradoxical situation that forest industries in Europe and in North America are finding themselves in difficulties. There is a surplus of output capacity, especially in pulp and
paper, and this latter industry is passing through an anxious phase when ideas of pressing forward regardless with forestry development in the developing countries do not have great appeal.
However, the special study now being conducted by FAO, underwritten by the industry, on the prospects for pulp and paper development in Europe suggests that this phase will be transitory. Moreover, the results of other regional Timber Trends Studies undertaken by FAO underline the urgency for the less developed countries of developing their forest resources and forest industries.
It appears, for instance, that Latin America's needs of industrial wood will almost treble by 1975, attaining the present orders of magnitude in Europe: forestry programs at present contemplated in that region are utterly inadequate to ensure that the demand will be met. In Asia and the Pacific, in spite of the radical revision of forest policies introduced by some governments in recent years, there is still expected to be a deficit of 12 million cubic meters of industrial wood by 1975. The preliminary data in the Africa study point also to a sharply rising need for processed forest products as literacy and educational campaigns, housing programs and industrialization get under way.
There seems still, then, a straightforward case for vigorous and concerted programs in the developing countries to mobilize their forest resources, actual or potential, and develop their forest industries, so as to ensure that their essential needs over the next decades can be met without immoderate outlays of foreign exchange for imports. The accent is put on concerted programs because of the advantages to be secured from complementarily of resources in neighboring countries and (in certain branches of forest industry) considerable economies of scale, and also in order to overcome the obstacles presented by initially small national markets.
Poplar pulpwood stacked in the yards of a paper mill in Belgium. The breeding of poplars in Europe has enabled foresters to obtain yields undreamt of a few decades ago. (Photo, Pulp and Paper International)
Man-made forests of Pinus radiata in New Zealand. For the future there may be increasing dependence on plantation forestry. (Photo, New Zealand Forest Service)