Forests and the forestry sector
The country¿s main types of land cover are forests and woodlands (45 percent), agroecosystems (34 percent) and savannah (14 percent). There are also smaller areas of swamp forest, xerophytic forest, moorland, rockland forest and mangroves.
The forestry sector¿s contribution to the gross domestic product is small, despite the country¿s forest wealth and potential.
The balance of trade is negative, inasmuch as pulp and paper imports in 1999 were US$320 million greater than exports, while there was a US$40 million trade deficit in the chipboard-plywood subsector and a similar deficit in the wooden furniture subsector.
Timber consumption by the forest industry is estimated at about 2.5 million cubic metres per year, obtained from planted forests (30 percent) and natural forests and imports (70 percent). Commercial forest plantations currently cover 141 000 ha and will produce between 20 and 25 million cubic metres of timber in the next five years. Natural forests have an environmentally viable economic reserve of 27 million cubic metres on 1.5 million hectares, which is enough to cover the equivalent of 11 years¿ consumption at present rates.
Eighty percent of total timber consumption is accounted for by solid wood production companies and 20 percent by pulp and chipboard (including veneer and plywood) producers.
In the case of natural production forests, there is a high level of waste as a result of the underuse of resources during the harvesting process, reflected in the amounts of residue produced during extraction and processing (30 and 42 percent respectively), which means that only 20 or 30 percent of a tree felled for timber is in fact harvested.
Deforestation represents a serious environmental threat and was estimated at an annual level of 190 000 ha in the 2001 edition of FAO¿s State of the World¿s Forests (SOFO). Uncontrolled agricultural expansion, indiscriminate logging and fuelwood gathering are the main causes.
There has been a steady increase in the rate of reforestation since 1993, when the Ministry of the Environment was established. The annual rate has now reached 32 937 ha, 64.4 percent corresponding to protective plantations and 35.6 percent to commercial plantations.
It is estimated that the country has a potential 25 million hectares suitable for sustainable and competitive forest plantations. About 3 million hectares - the major part of which is at present being used for fairly unsustainable agriculture and livestock farming - could feasibly be incorporated into the productive forest base in forthcoming years. Since 1996 the government has been implementing a major programme of Competitivity Agreements by Production Chains in order to boost the forestry sector.
The environmental importance of Colombia¿s forest resources is incalculable, inasmuch as they harbour one of the greatest ranges of biodiversity and most extensive water resources in the world.
Last updated: July 2001