Forests and the forestry sector
It is calculated that Uruguay had 1.3 million hectares of natural forests in 2000, representing 7.4 percent of its land area, with forest plantations accounting for 622 000 ha of the total. There is no significant deforestation and forest degradation has been considerably reduced.
A countrywide strategy for the conservation of indigenous forests has been defined, which will in the long term lead to sustainable harvesting, the preservation of genetic diversity and the maintenance of ecological processes and vital biological systems. The medium-term aim is to identify efficient management techniques so that about 20 percent of the country¿s total area can be placed under sustainable production, while the short-term aim is to balance the harvesting needs of the rural sector with the domestic demand for forest products, exercising the maximum possible control over forest resources for their conservation. Between 1990 and 2003, 12 000 ha of natural forests were placed under sustainable management, representing approximately 20 percent of all such forests.
In recent years the area of forest plantations has been significantly increased, thanks to incentivization policies. As a result, forest cover is increasing at an annual average of 50 000 ha (with an annual increase of 5 percent between 1990 and 2000). Uruguay has the highest afforestation rate in Latin America and it is therefore anticipated that investment will increase significantly, meaning that a larger workforce will be needed in coming years for both primary and secondary processing.
The industrial sector has started to develop as the forest plantations come to maturity. Investment in the sawmill and wood panel industries is growing, and two cellulose plants are in process of receiving environmental approval.
The private sector has invested in port infrastructures, and main roads, secondary tracks and skid trails are being improved.
The number of landholdings in the country whose main source of income is forest plantations rose from 178 in 1990 to 1 083 in 2000.
Last updated: March 2004