Forests and the forestry sector
Forest and other wooded land make up only one seventh of the land area of Armenia at 351 000 ha. In terms of forest and other wooded land per capita, Armenia is rather poorly endowed. Forest area per capita is only 0.1 ha. Broadleaved species predominate, accounting for more than nine tenths of the total growing stock. The main species are oaks, beech and hornbeam, with ash, elm, lime and maple also common. Remnants of coniferous forest contain species of pine, yew and juniper. Altogether, there are about 200 species of trees and shrubs. Sixty-two percent of forests are located in the northeast, 36 percent in the southeast, 2 percent in central regions.
Most of the forest is classified as natural and unavailable for wood supply, more for economic reasons than for conservation and protection. Commercial forestry activities, including wood harvesting, are limited in Armenia, but the collection of fuelwood, fruits, aromatic and medicinal herbs and fodder are important to the population. A logging ban has been in place in Armenia since 1996.
All forests in Armenia are State-owned, and about one third of the total forest area is in the protected areas. Although there are only limited formal commercial forestry operations in Armenia, the forest estate is being managed in an unsustainable manner, with alarming rates of deforestation and forest degradation, particularly in Oak forest ecosystems.
Products and Trade
The forestry sector officially contributes less than 3% of GDP but this does not reflect the actual contribution of forests in providing critical environmental, economic social and cultural benefits, particularly to rural communities Throughout history and particularly today, mountain forests play a crucial role in people¿s daily lives, providing them with necessary fuel-wood, construction timber, non-wood forest products (NWFPs) such as berries, fruits, mushrooms and medical herbs.
Annually, about 60 000 m3 of timber products are officially reported to satisfy local needs. However in addition to the authorized harvest, clandestine overcutting for fuelwood, subsistence use, cash flow and unauthorized commercial business results in the actual cut far exceeding this level. The wood processing sector is dominated by a small number of wood processing companies with a vertically integrated supply chain.
The industry produces mainly sawnwood, furniture, particle-board, parquet flooring, doors, windows and other products. However, the industry today employs less than 2000 people, while in 1993 that number was close to 7000. The technology and equipment of the wood industry are generally out-dated and wasteful of forest resources. Major players in the forest industries sector include NGO joint venture company CARITAS; SIL Group, the largest multi-profile importer, exporter, manufacturer and trader in Armenia and Max Wood, wood processing enterprise with facilities in Armenia and Nagorny Karabagh.
Fuelwood remains the traditional and important source of fuel for many rural communities and certain urban inhabitants for heating and cooking. The remainder of the production is processed into sawnwood and particle board. Per capita consumption of forest products in the country is relatively low. Armenia imports both raw materials and industrial products, especially high quality paper. It imports about US$ 6 million of forest products per year.
The role of the forestry sector in the national economy is not well developed because forests in Armenia were classified as protective forests in the Soviet times. Only forest regeneration cuttings were allowed in Armenia. Since, economic evaluation methods and tools have not yet been revised. Also, a strong black economy and a high proportion of illegal logging have to be recognised. Allegedly, trees from illegal logging equals more than half million cubic meters, exceeding several times the legal timber utilization volume.
The World Bank, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) are assisting Armenia to review and adapt its forest policy to present political and economic conditions, restructure the institutional framework and improve the marketing and pricing of State forest products. Armenia is a member of the Joint Programme of the UNECE Timber Committee and the FAO European Forestry Commission. The Government of Armenia has signed and ratified the UN Conventions, including Biological Diversity (1992), Climate Change (1992), Combating Desertification (1994), and the Protocol on Water and Health (1999). Commitments under these conventions are being elaborated in policies, plans and laws.
Last update: August 2004