The evidence obtained from the study indicates that three valuable hardwood plantations that are in significant quantities on the ground as at 1995 are Teak, Rosewood and Swietenia species. They make up about 10 percent of the global hardwood plantations and over 90 percent of such plantations are in Asia. Teak forms about 74 percent of the area of the main three valuable hardwoods, followed by the Swietenia species with 21 percent.
Forecasts indicate that any significant production from these plantations when grown on a 70-year rotation would be felt long after year 2020. Estimated yields in year 2020 at rotations of 50 years and 70 years would be about 70 000 m3 and 5 000 m3, respectively.
As any newly established valuable plantation will take at least 40 years to mature, any major initiative in the formation of valuable hardwood plantations cannot be felt for a long time. The overall production of these timbers is expected to dip in the early part of this century due to the long 70-year rotations used for teak, associated with the age structure of Asian stands. Thus the amount of hardwood suitable for sawing and veneer production is expected to fall especially in the Asia-Pacific region over the next 20 years, despite a forecasted increase in the total hardwood production in the world during that period.
The success of valuable hardwood plantation programmes to take pressure off the natural forests is very much dependent on the links to an assured future. They are generally used in high-value niche or speciality markets. As such they are characterised by swings in consumer fashion and there are considerable barriers to their expansion. Some of the supply characteristics of the valuable hardwoods are also not common knowledge. Other factors that may affect the demand for quality hardwoods include anti-tropical timber campaigns, substitution with upgraded softwoods, temperate hardwood supplies, and competition from composite panels such as the medium density fibreboard and non-wood products.
Future promotion of quality hardwood plantations needs to emphasise choosing species with versatile end-uses, market research and development to hold on to the niche markets, and maintaining high standards from production to marketing. Careful site selection, use of high quality planting materials of superior genetic origin, and good silviculture are important, and programmes should be economically viable, environmentally appropriate and socially desirable. Incentives may also be necessary to stimulate private investment because of the long rotations.
Even though valuable hardwood plantations have the potential to reduce the pressure on natural forests, they will not prevent deforestation due to agricultural encroachment. The supply of large quantities of high value timber could perhaps undermine the value of natural forest stands and so lead to more rapid destruction. Hence it is advisable, where possible, to manage plantations and natural forests on complementary basis.