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Parana Pine - A Source of Wood for Reconstruction in Europe

Member of the FAO Standing Advisory Committee for Forestry and Forest Products

THE Interim Committee on Forestry and Forest Products of FAO in many of its discussions and several of its reports stressed the need for a source of wood supply that might be exploited in time to be of use in the rehabilitation of Europe. Among the possibilities mentioned were Alaska, Siberia, and the Parana pine region of Brazil.

Later this was discussed by ad hoc committees, and still later by the Standing Advisory Committee on Forestry and Forest Products. The consensus of opinion was that the Parana pine, Araucaria angustifolia (Bort.) O. Kuntze, seemed to offer the best opportunities for meeting the emergency situation in postwar Europe.

At the Oslo meeting of the Standing Advisory Committee in August 1946, Lyle F. Watts proposed that a mission be sent to Brazil to investigate these possibilities and suggested as a preliminary measure that Tom Gill, member of the committee representing Latin America, gather together information on Parana pine.

This report is in response to Mr. Watts' request. It is a digest of data received in the course of several months' correspondence. The material includes letters and field notes from foresters familiar with the Parana pine region; a report by the Commercial Attaché of the United States Embassy in Brazil; a report of the American Consul-General at Sao Paulo; a communication from the Brazilian Trade Bureau; and technical reports from the Forest Products Laboratory of the U. S. Forest Service.

I. The Resource: Parana pine is the timber species of the highest economic importance in Brazil, because of its dense stands, variety of uses, and ease of extraction. It is found on the high mountain ranges of the states of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Geraes, and Sao Paulo, and on the plateaus of the states of Parana, Santa Catharina, and Rio Grande do Sul, at an elevation of 1,800 to 3,500 feet (550 to 1,100 m.) above sea-level. Originally, its commercial range covered about 100,000 square miles (259,000 km²), centering in the state of Parana, but this area has been reduced by years of exploitation. It is estimated that this pine now occupies over ten million hectares of land in Parana, Santa Catharina, and Rio Grande do Sul; areas occupied in the states of Minas Geraes and Sao Paulo are much smaller. Forests in the northern portion of Rio Grande do Sul are said to be virgin and to contain over 10,000 million board feet (45 million m³) of timber.

For the region as a whole, stands average about 8,000 board feet to the acre (90 m³ per ha.), but in moist sheltered valleys reach 20,000 board feet (260 m³) or more. The tree is clear of all branches to a height of 75 to 100 feet (23 to 30 m) and mature trees will produce four or five 16-foot (5 m.) logs to the tree, the first two or three being practically clear. In diameter, the tree varies from 12 to 70 inches (30 to 180 cm.), with occasional diameters of seven feet (2 m.)

The timber is very sound, and defective trees are uncommon. The wood is soft and flexible, moderately elastic, strong and light, weighing about 36 lb. (16 kg.) to the cubic foot in an air-dried condition. In texture it resembles western hemlock, Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg., or Pacific Coast red fir, Abies magnifica A. Murr., more closely than any United States timber tree and contains the longest cellulose fibers known among tree species. Generally it occurs in large quantities and is comparatively easy to exploit. In Germany, where considerable quantities have been imported, the timber when thoroughly seasoned was considered suitable for the same purposes as European conifers. Its many uses include permanent construction, scaffolding, doors, sash, flooring, concrete forms, slack cooperage, etc.

Typical stand of towering Parana pine, clear of branches for 75 to 100 feet - Photo by Jason Swallen

II. The Industry: The Parana pine industry has been organized for many years, and is the most extensively developed forest industry in South America. Lumbering is by far the most important industry in the economy of the state of Parana, where approximately 80 percent of the people are dependent either directly or indirectly on the exploitation of Parana pine. Normal export of pine varies from 200 to 250 million board feet (470,000 to 590,000 m³) annually, with Argentina the principal importer, followed by Uruguay, United Kingdom, and South Africa. The timber has also been sold in the United States.

During the war years and since the conclusion of hostilities, it has been practically impossible to secure information regarding the total production of Parana pine, but in 1941 Brazil exported more than 340,000 metric tons of wood, valued at over 7 million dollars, and of this 85 percent was Parana pine. For the first seven months of 1946 total exports amounted to 244,000 metric tons.

Milling capacity is considered capable of great expansion. The total number of pine sawmills registered in the principal lumber-producing states is over 2,000. For the most part logging and milling operations are conducted with modern equipment, identical with that in use in the southern pine forests of the United States. As a rule, sawmills use circular, band, and reciprocating saws, most of which are well mechanized and efficiently operated. The greatest handicap to the local mills is that they do not have adequate means for wood seasoning, such as kiln-dryers, etc. Before the war most of the sawmills were very well equipped with machinery of German origin. Since the war, the quality of the manufacturing machinery has seriously deteriorated and replacements are difficult to obtain. In many cases, electric power is supplied for plants and homes of workmen.

Owing to transportation difficulties and quota control, mills now have huge stocks of pine lumber on hand. The newly registered sawmills have never been allowed to begin operation, and many mills are closed because of insufficient transportation. For the industry as a whole, mills operating today have a much greater capacity to produce than actual output indicates. When transportation is improved and production quotas eliminated, lumber output will materially increase.

III. Transportation: Inadequate transportation seems the most formidable obstacle to the operation of the Parana pine industry.

Shipment of lumber involves three means of transportation: railroads, trucks, and ships, and, of the three, the greatest problem is railroad equipment. There is difficulty in importing rails, freight cars, and other materials for the maintenance of existing railways, and at the present time one railroad has on file between 20,000 and 25,000 requisitions for railroad cars from the lumber industry alone. This means that in the more distant zones the railroad, whose tracks cover 2,200 kilometers,. is from 12 to 14 months behind schedule.

Huge stocks of lumber are without transport, and large sawmills report stocks awaiting transport for as long as two and a half years. In the southern areas, where transportation facilities are especially disorganized, over 5,000 carloads of lumber are stacked along the railroads waiting for cars. This breakdown in transportation has resulted in a great waste of wood. Mills now ship only the highest grades of their products, burning or giving away large amounts of low-grade material for whatever they can get locally. Even box shooks are made of clear lumber.

Another serious railroad problem is the shortage of coal for locomotives, and many railroads have turned to firewood for fuel.

Most logging is done by truck, and this has been affected by lack of trucks, parts, and gasoline. More good highways are needed, for practically all roads in the interior-are built and kept in repair by the individual lumbermen, who now have difficulty in obtaining the proper machinery for construction and maintenance. In some cases gasogenios are being used, but these are impracticable in rough forest country, and cannot carry heavy loads.

At the base of a big Parana pine - Photo by courtesy American Forestry Association

IV. Government controls: In 1941 the Brazilian Government created the National Pine Institute (Instituto Nacional do Pinho) for the purpose of controlling production and preventing destructive exploitation. The Institute has been given responsibility for technological studies, supervision of output, reforestation, credit, finance, compulsory registration of producers, price-fixing, establishing quotas, and supervision of installation of new pine industries. It is directly responsible for forestry practices in Brazil, as well as for the operational activities of the entire wood industry.

In August 1946, the government prohibited the exportation of all logs, lumber, veneer, and plywood. In November, this embargo was modified to permit the exportation of a monthly quota of 80 percent of the normal exports of Parana pine. Pine lumber exports are now under an export license system and, consequently, shipments for 1947 will probably be seriously reduced.

Lumber is one of the principal items included in the Brazilian-Argentine trade agreement, which became effective 1 January 1947. This is a factor that might affect the availability of pine exports for Europe, since it is unlikely that as a purely emergency measure Brazil would be willing to divert lumber from Argentina and Uruguay, as these are established consuming countries and every effort would be made to retain their trade. On the other hand, it seems probable that Brazil would look favorably on an opportunity to build up her transportation system and establish the Parana pine industry on an economic basis, especially if means were provided to regenerate cut-over areas.

V. Summary and Recommendations: No question seems to exist regarding the commercial abundance of Parana pine. For years it has been a well known commodity of trade in many countries, and its value for construction and many other purposes is established. The industry exploiting it is organized and for the most part provided with modern logging equipment, although replacements are badly needed. The Brazilian Government, through its National Pine Institute, is in a position to translate the policy changes proposed here into action with minimum delay. The Institute is staffed with officials familiar with problems of pine exploitation, and has already drawn up detailed plans for national forestry and reforestation programs. The Parana pine region would seem unique in having great quantities of lumber already piled in the millyards and along the railroads. With adequate transportation facilities, this might become a ready source of emergency material for Europe.

On the debit side are transportation difficulties and the need for additional logging and milling equipment. These obstacles to a rapid expansion of pine output ought not be minimized, but they do not seem insuperable when measured against Europe's critical need for wood.

Without further investigation, all one can now say is that, as a source of emergency wood for Europe, Parana pine seems to offer better possibilities than any other timber tree.

Granted that the attitude of the Brazilian Government were favorable to this proposal, two problems would require solution: first, a careful estimate of how much Parana pine Europe can guarantee to purchase during the next three to five years; and second, equipment for logging and milling, trucks, road-building machinery, railroad equipment, and gasoline for transportation.

To this end it is recommended that FAO take early steps to:

1. Ascertain the position of the Brazilian Government toward expanding the Parana pine industry.
2. Ascertain the amount of pine for which purchase could be assured.
3. Explore the possibilities of a loan from the World Bank for providing equipment and for other necessary financing.

If the results of these preliminary consultations are satisfactory, FAO should dispatch experts to Brazil to confer with officials of the Pine Institute concerning the additional transportation and milling facilities needed and the administrative structure to be set up. FAO experts should also determine with officials of the Pine Institute what forestry measures may be necessary to provide for regeneration of the areas logged.

If FAO can bring together the necessary agencies and coordinate their efforts to provide an emergency supply of wood for the war-torn countries of Europe, it will have made an impressive demonstration of the effectiveness of international action. It will be an example to all nations of the role FAO is capable of assuming as an integrating factor in world economy.

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