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1.1 Panel Industrial and Non-wood Fibre Resources
1.2 Paper-making and Non-wood Fibre Resources

China is a developing country with a total population of 1.2 billion. The forest cover is only 13.92%; per capita standing timber volume is less than 10 m3; and the forest distribution is concentrated in several areas. There is severe mismatch between limited resource and the high population density and between development and protection. The problems facing Chinese forestry are: heavily soil and water erosion, desertification, shortage of water resource, loss and fragmentation of forest habitat, and site degradation of timber plantation. However, the Fourth National Forest Inventory (1989-1993) showed that forest area and stock volume has attained positive increase. Compared to the Third National Forest Inventory, the standing stock increased from 10.57 to 11.785 billion m3 But the timber forest resource faces a crisis: it is estimated that the stock volume of mature forest will decrease from 1.963 billion to 0.875 billion m3 from 1993 to 2010. So the shortage of total timber and particularly of big diameter timber will continue in China. It is estimated that the gap between annual timber demands and supply will be about 50-70 million m3 by 2010.

Non wood fibre resources have the potential to complement wood supplies. They are abundant have short cycles and rapid regeneration, and are of comparatively low price. Thus, non-wood and recycled fibre will play important roles in paper-making and manufacture of artificial panels, as substitutes or complements to wood.

1.1 Panel Industrial and Non-wood Fibre Resources

According to statistical data from the Ministry of Forestry of China, the total output of artificial panels was 16.84 and 12.03 million tons respectively in 1996 and 1995; the output of plywood, fibreboard, particleboard, and other artificial panels is 4,903.2, 2,055, 3,382.8, and 1691.6 thousand tons respectively (Table 1, 2, 3).

Table 1 - The Outputs of Plywood (103 m3)

Common plywood

Special plywood

Bamboo plywood












Table 2 - The Outputs of Fibreboard (103 m3)


Wood-based fibreboard

Non-wood fibreboard


Hard fibreboard (SF)








1,791.3 (122.8)




Table 3 - The Outputs of Particleboard (103 m3)

General particleboard

Non-wood particleboard










At present, bagasse and flax residues, which have relatively high fibre content, quality and easy transportation are used widely in wood based panels production. Most mills are in the provinces (Autonomous Regions) of Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan, Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan, Heilongjiang and Xinjiang etc. But natural non-wood fibre mills are not widespread in China: there are only some small particleboard mills with annual production of 5 thousand m3 in Hunan Province.

1.2 Paper-making and Non-wood Fibre Resources

1.2.1 Introduction
1.2.2 Development

1.2.1 Introduction

From 1979 to 1995, the production of paper and paperboard increased from 5,18 million to 24.2 million ton, but the demand for them increased from 5.51 million to 27.08 million tons so that China has to import more to meet the market demand; imports were 1.33 and 3.11 million tons respectively in 1991 and in 1995.

The main raw material for paper and paperboard is non-wood pulp: rice-straw pulp constitutes 40%, bamboo pulp 1.5%, reeds pulp 4.2% and bagasse pulp 2.4%. Wood pulp contributes 12.8% (including imported wood pulp 3.6%). With the development of the national economy, the requirement for paper and paperboard especially for high-quality paper will increase year by year. It is estimated that the demand for paper will reach 35-36 million tons up to 2000 but the production of raw material will only reach 34 million tons. The gap will be met through importation. Even if the production of 34 million tons is reached, the wood pulp can only meet 25% of demand owing to the limit of forest resource. In 2010, the need for paper will be at least 45 million tons and wood pulp will only meet about 33% of it; strategy requires greater use of non-wood material to make adequate paper.

There is rich non-wood resource for paper such as wheat-straw, rice-straw, reeds, bamboo, fibre plants and bagasse. The annual bamboo production is about 10 - 12 million tons but only 10% of that was for paper. The area of cultivated reeds will be 600 thousand ha and the production will reach 5 million tons. At present the total reeds production is 2.5 million tons and the yield is only 4 tons per ha; if the reeds land was improved the production per ha can increase 1-1.5 times. The production of bagasse is about 5,600-7,000 thousand tons but only 11-13% of that can be used for paper making. If joint management between sugar and paper industries could be adopted, the utilization rate of the residues can be increased.

There are many factors to influence the use of non-wood resource for paper: one is the price factor. For example, paper-making in one paper factory in Muchuan county of Sichuan province need timber, bamboo and rice straw for which the prices are 250-300 yuan RMB, 400-500 yuan, and 350 yuan respectively so that the price of bamboo is 60-80% higher than timber. Secondly the investment in greater production of raw material is limited: for example, reeds production is about 4.5 tons per ha while it could be 12 tons per ha if the reeds land was improved. However, the cost of improving the land is high (about 3,500-4,500 yuan per ha). Thirdly, transport is also an important restricting factor; fourthly, the management system is also a bottleneck: paper-making enterprises are managed by different departments and there is poor coordination between production and utilization. Finally, backward techniques are a problem: non-wood fibres are only used to make low quality paper with heavy pollution. Tables 1 and 2 show the annual output of paper and paperboard in China.

1.2.2 Development

With the development of market economy, from 1979 to 1995, the production of paper and paperboard increased from 5.18 million to 24.2 million tons equivalent to an annual growth rate of 10.11%. The demand meanwhile increased from 5.51 million to 27.08 million tons (about 10.46% pa) so that China has to import to meet the market demand. Imports of these products were 1.33 and 3.11 million tons respectively in 1991 and in 1995.

The development of paper industries could be divided into 3 stages:

· Using Wood Pulp as Main Raw Material From 1949 To 1957 - At the beginning of 1950s, the guiding principle on "Using wood pulp as principal and straw as subsidiary raw materials" was put forward in the first national paper-making conference. During this period, wood pulp for paper was developed rapidly. Till 1957, the production of machine-processed pulp was 810 thousand tons in China, of which wood pulp constituted 31.2% and non wood pulp 68.8% respectively.

· Using Straw Pulp as Priority From 1958 To 1979 - During this period, building small and medium scale enterprises, adopting indigenous and primitive methods and using straw as materials were the main principles. Till 1979, about 3,700 paper factories were established and the paper and paperboard production reached 5,185 thousand tons of which straw pulp was 4,895 thousand tons (94%).

· Both Wood and Straw Pulp Were Developed - In 1980, "Developing both wood and straw pulp production in the light of local conditions and strengthening the raw material base" was drafted as a principle. Raw material bases with the area of 510 thousand ha for reeds and bamboo pulp were established by 1994. By 1995, there were about 6,000 paper-making enterprises in China with the production of 21,000 thousand tons of which 2,080 thousand tons wood pulp (10%) and 10,780 thousand tons non-wood pulp (51 %)1 (Table 4).

1 With wood and non-wood pulp appearing to account for a total of only 61 % of paper output, the rest (nearly 40%) must largely be from recovered paper fibre (editor).

The straw of rice and wheat are main non-wood fibre resources for pulp which accounted for 45% of total pulp, and the pulp of reeds, bamboo, and bagasse was 8.86%.

But there are also some technical disadvantages of using agriculture residues in the paper industry. For example, the rice hull contains poor quality fibre and high silica so that it is difficult to use in the artificial panel industry on a large scale. Now the most important agriculture residues applied in the panel industries are bagasse and flax.

The percentage of waste paper in the pulp is increasing year by year and it increased from 4.05 million tons (27%) in 1991 to 7.6 million tons (33.51%) in 1995, waste hemp and cotton was 31.25%. It is expected that waste paper consumption will continuously increase in the future owing to the low cost and less pollution.

In Henan province in 1994, the production of paper and paperboard was 3.6 million tons using non-wood resources such as wheat straw, cotton straw, and hemp and flax as main material.

Table 4 - The number of pulp, paper, and paperboard mills from 1991-1994

Paper-making mills

Pulp mills













At present, the annual imported paper, paperboard, and wood pulp reach 2.5 million tons at a cost of US$3 billion.

At present, there are about 24 panel mills which use bagasse as raw materials and the total annual capacity reaches 150 thousand tons in China. Among them, there are 14 mills with annual capacity 5,000 m3 and 10 mills with annual capacity 10,000 m3. Although most of the agriculture residues were used for fuel and fertilizer, they have good potential to the paper and panels industries. In 1994, the output of artificial panels using non-wood fibre resources accounted for 15-25% of total production.

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