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Forest resources of Paraguay

Presented by the Delegation of Paraguay

Forestry Study - 1945

THE greatest natural resource of Paraguay is probably its forests and no doubt the day will come when the supervision of the forests will constitute a very important function of the State.

As the foundation for its supervision of the forests, the State needs certain data on which to base its calculations and standardize its activities. The most accurate information possible on the supply position of all types of raw materials is vital for the success of present efforts in postwar planning. This economic supervision of one whole section of the raw material resources of the nation - the forests - and of the related industries is essential in gaining full knowledge of potential resources. Moreover, private enterprises need additional information for the economic development of the forest resources, which contribute to the public welfare when they are exploited rationally.

The information which is submitted in this report is the outcome of Paraguay's first survey of the volume, quality, and tree species of its forest resources,. a study undertaken primarily as a basic contribution to the economic and social welfare of the nation in peacetime. Rapid changes in the economic and social life of the country have increased the need for the publication of all facts which are now available and the conclusions to be drawn from them.

The purposes of forestry supervision in Paraguay are, briefly:

1. To prepare an inventory of the present supplies of wood and other forest products;

2. To determine the rate of growth at which these supplies are increasing;

3. To determine the rate of loss caused by industrial and household uses, hurricanes, fires, decay, etc.;

4. To determine the present consumption figure and the probable future trends in wood and other forest products;

5. To interpret and correlate these data with the present and anticipated economic conditions in order to assist in developing both public and private policies for the efficient and rational use of lands suitable for forest production.


This study is part of a series of studies on the multiple aspects of Paraguayan economy prepared by the various sections of STICA (Servicio Técnico Inter-Americano de Cooperación Agricola [Inter-American Technical Service for Agricultural Co-operation]). This organization was created by an agreement between the Governments of Paraguay and the United States of America and its technical staff and budget are provided by the Institute and the Office of Inter-American Affairs.

The supervisor of this project, Mr. Morton A. Klein,1 previously acted as a technical expert attached to the United States Forest Service. He had no previous knowledge of the Paraguayan timber problems, whereas the census-takers were Paraguayans who had had practical experience in the forests and fields of this country but who were not necessarily forestry experts. However, theirs was a serious piece of research work, for in spite of the difficulties and limitations inherent in it, the study was carefully prepared, making full use of available data and of the cooperative efforts and goodwill of those that contributed to it. Nevertheless, it includes a great deal of estimated data which had to be utilized for lack of relevant statistics and which the authors of the project gathered from all parts of the country and assembled in a general report with due regard for practical criteria, thus reducing the possibility of a very wide margin of error. For this reason, the application of such conclusions to smaller regional areas which have their own peculiar characteristics must be carried out cautiously. They are intended to serve rather as a general basis for the more intensive study of various aspects of forestry economy.

1 Mr. Morton A. Klein was a member of the Institute of Inter-American Affairs until 1945, at which time he made a report on the forest resources of Paraguay.

Other studies which are being prepared, particularly the agricultural census, will supersede by more precise information some of the present data on land utilization methods. Soil studies based on aerial photographs and maps have also been prepared. They will show the vegetation zones and indicate more precisely the extent of present forest areas and geographical zones.

Other reports are those of Mr. George Uderitz of the Inter-American Development Commission on forest resources, one on transport problems, and the maps of the Aerial Photography Mission, which may also help in determining and solving the various special problems now confronting the forestry industry of the country.

Furthermore, the census-takers have in one and a half years covered a distance of more than 21,000 kilometers, as follows: Distance covered by air - 1,600 km.; by railroad - 4,576 km.; by ship - 5,400 km.; on horseback and by other means of transport - 11,560 km. During these trips they visited all sections of the eastern region of the country and all the sawmills and principal forestry industries, endeavoring to obtain as much information as possible.

They took samples of tree species of various types in each section - counting one by one all useful trees of more than 6 inches in diameter (15.2 cm.) found within a minimum area of one hectare, measuring the girth of each 5 feet (1.5 meters) above the ground and also computing its height.

Whenever necessary, they took samples in larger areas up to 5 hectares. Such samples, selected in representative localities of the forests of each part of the country, have served as a basis for computing the standing timber, posts, and firewood in each type of forest and within specified areas, making allowance for the variations in volume due to differences of terrain, such as valleys, rocky areas, etc. The summary of this data (1943-44) was used for the computation of standing timber actually available in each section and department of the country, as shown in the table below on this page.

Visits were paid to all the public offices in the interior and all possible data were obtained from them. In addition, the principal producers and concession holders in each section were interviewed. It is believed that this study presents the best and most recent data that can be obtained.


Forest Area

The greater portion of the forest zone is located east of the Paraguay River, bounded, generally speaking, as follows: on the north, by a line which extends from Villa Rosario on the Paraguay River to Pedro Juan Caballero (in the Cordilleras Amambay, on the northern frontier between Paraguay and Brazil); on the south, by a line which crosses 20 kilometers north of Asunción on the Paraguay River and which extends as far as the port of Encarnación on the Paraná River. The portion covered with the densest forest is located on- the delta. It extends, 100 miles (160.9 km.) in width, along the Paraná River to the Pirayuí River on the south (50 miles [80.4 km.] to the north of Encarnación) and as far as the cataracts of Guaira and the Cordillera Mbaracayú, constituting a total area of 6 million hectares. The forest islands and the quebracho of the Chaco lie scattered outside this region.

The existing forests of the region east of the Paraguay River have been calculated at approximately 7.8 million hectares, of which 5 million are still virgin forests, capable of producing 280 million 1113 of wood which can be considered as marketable, of which 12 percent will probably be of first quality for export purposes; 23 percent of best quality sawn timber type; 33.8 percent of second quality sawn timber type; 17.9 percent of third class sawn timber type; and 13.3 percent of fourth class wood of a type which is not being cut at the present time.

Commercial Varieties


Common Name

Scientific Name


Modulus of Rupture

Cedro común

Cedrela fissilis


460- 770

Cedro rá

Cabrale oblongifolia




Cordia hypolenca




Torresea cearensis



Pterogyne nitens



Lapacho amarillo

Tecoma ipé



Lapacho negro

Tecoma ochracea




Piptadenia macrocarpa




Piptadenia rigida




Peltophorum dubium




Astronium urundeuva




Myrocarpus frondosus




Balfourodendron riedelianum




Enterolobium timbouva


650- 670


Aspidosperma querandi



Patagonula americana




Even after many centuries of agricultural development and exploitation, the forests of Paraguay have changed very little in their total stock and still cover approximately half the total area of the country. The Paraguay River divides the forests into two distinct zones: those of the west which, except for the quebracho trees, are generally dry and poor; and those of the east which are more humid and produce more valuable varieties of wood. In the western region (the Chaco), we find open forests composed generally of small, hard, and malformed trees mixed with cactus clumps and thickets and spiny plants competing for the fields. The main species include Quebracho, Algarrobo, Coronillo, Espinillo, Palo borracho (Samuhú), Paratodo, Palo santo and Palo blanco, scattered over vast expanses of palm trees. Aside from the palms, these varieties are generally very heavy and of dark color. Many of them contain some tannin, though none so much as the red quebracho, which is the most valuable tree.


(Based on the Forestry Study for the years 1943-44)

The hardwood forests of the eastern region vary from open zones near the Paraguay River to densely forested zones mixed with vines and underbrush along the Paraná basin. Nearly all this area is covered with virgin forests. The most important species are: Cedro, Lapacho, Ibyraró, Petereby, Incienso, and Palo rosa. However, there are approximately 200 known species which need further study and experimentation in order to determine their most appropriate uses. This region represents one of the richest sources of Paraguayan raw materials because of its wood and the excellent soil of the plateau of the Upper Paraná.

In several zones of this vast virgin forest region, the varieties most valuable for export purposes have been logged (cedar, lapacho, etc.) and have been replaced naturally by a secondary growth of inferior species. During the last few months, STICA has been making a study of the forest resources of each department and section of the country. This study includes several maps indicating the individual forest zones and several tables and charts showing the total volume of wood available, the extent and nature of its exploitation, the sawing methods used, the cost of production of logs, ties, etc., and other relevant data. It is hoped that this study will afford a sound basis on which Paraguay can plan the extensive development of its forestry industry. This study has already been completed in the eastern region of the country and the particulars of the general situation according to preliminary calculations have been shown in detail on maps and charts.


A plan for nurseries for reforestation purposes is needed for the central zone. The past experience of the National Agronomical Institute confirms the prospect that this plan can be carried out but indicates, however, that special attention must be paid to it. and that large investments must be made which will allow for the complete solution of the problem. The soil and climate of the central zone are perfectly adapted to species of rapid growth, such as the eucalyptus, the pine, the poplar, the willow, etc. These species would be remunerative if they were used to produce sawn timber and posts, as windbreaks, or for the embellishment of small farms.

As previously indicated, the need for all types of modern equipment for production purposes is urgent. The problem concerns private industry primarily, but even so a considerable amount of technical assistance would be required.

There are in Paraguay more than 100 species of trees which at the present time have little or no commercial value and which need further intensive study and experimentation for the determination of their properties. One of the results of such studies would be to ensure the proper utilization of these trees so that valuable logs should not be used as firewood, etc.

If all the necessary improvements are to be carried out, it would be advisable to establish a forestry office or institute, composed of representatives of both government and private industry, whose function it would be to co-ordinate all such activities. If adequate capital and competent technical assistance were made available, such an agency could initiate a program of reforestation, facilitate the installation of modern sawmills, recommend government measures, and also supervise the progressive improvement of the forestry industries of the country.

In short, it is indicated that Paraguay should very seriously consider the problem of the maximum utilization of its forestry resources or, what amounts to the same thing, that it should endeavor to cease being exclusively an exporter of raw materials to other more highly industrialized nations and become a producer of manufactured articles for both the domestic and foreign markets.

Countries such as Paraguay which limit their forestry economy to the production of raw materials cannot achieve any progress, in spite of all their efforts toward increasing their production, as these would only result in damaging consequences on account of the depletion of natural resources.

Industrialization affords a solution to this problem as it creates a permanent local market for raw materials and some of the profits can be reinvested with a view to maintaining or increasing those natural resources, thus preventing their depletion.

Industrial Exploitation


Approximate figures on the forest resources of the eastern region of Paraguay indicate that there are some 7,812,619 hectares of forest land with a total volume estimated at 2,569,746,000 cubic meters of wood of all types and classes. Of this total, however, there are only 33,224,000 m3 of "exportable" wood, judged according to present standards and methods of exploitation. It is probable that only one quarter of this volume would be accessible now, the balance being out of reach economically, due to the present system of exploitation and to the antiquated and costly methods of transportation.

Calculations show that there are only about 4 cubic meters of these exportable woods per hectare in all the forest lands. Undoubtedly, some of the zones have greater concentrations of these valuable woods than others and it is there that exploitation operations are being carried on, particularly in zones that are densely populated with woods and advantageously situated near existent rail and water transportation.

To compare relative values: the collective sum of forests of all classes in the entire eastern region consists of 2,569 million cubic meters. The annual cutting of trees in the whole world is 2,645 million m3 (56,000 million cubic feet, according to Zon and Sparhawk). Almost half of this quantity is produced in the North American Continent.


There is no information available concerning metric volume, with regard to the forest wealth in the Chaco region.

From present commercial operations and from the work done by Dr. Bertoni it is known that there is a quantity of trees containing tannin, such as Quebracho colorado, Algarrobo blanco, and others. In addition to these important trees containing tannin, there are the Gluayacan, the Caranday, the Palo santo, and others of high value for construction work and other uses that require durability and resistance to deterioration. Several varieties of palm trees that are useful to man are also found.

Without a definite exploration across this region, the forest wealth will remain unknown and will produce only the value that present commercial enterprises can extract.


Exploration of woods in the western region of Paraguay indicates that timbers of an "exportable" size and quality (50 cm. by 5 m.) are estimated to be in the neighborhood of 33 million cubic meters, representing about 12 percent of the total of the present forests which can produce marketable timbers.

However, not all these "marketable" timbers could be extracted and placed on the markets under the present conditions of exploitation.

Class I, which has identical technological characteristics as "exportable" logs (except that their diameters are smaller and they have minor physical defects), is represented by good commercial woods. such as Lapacho, Cedro, Petereby, etc., and is calculated at about 66 million cubic meters comprising about 23 percent of all marketable woods.

Class II is represented by woods known in the country but of less importance in the markets: Ybyrapytá, Laurel, Guatambú, etc. It represents about 96 million m3 or 34 percent of the "standing" exploitable total. The rest of the forests consist of such trees as the Urundey, Palo macho, Timbó, etc., which are used by local consumers and are not worth transporting over great distances, and such trees as the Ombú, Samuhú Aguaí, etc., which probably are inadvertently cut during operations and which have no definite value. Collectively, these two categories represent about 88 million m3.

Besides these two classes, which are suitable for the production of sawn timbers, there are trees which produce valuable beams, telephone and telegraph posts, and fence rails. These represent about 73 million m3. There are approximately 2,000 million m3 of fuelwood. In addition to all this wood available for immediate exploitation, there are trees of all classes, measuring from 15 cm. to 35 cm. in diameter, which are growing and whose volume today is about 173 million m3. There is no doubt they will yield a considerably greater volume during the next 25 to 30 years, when it is presumed that the tree whose diameter is less than this in 1946 will be ready for cutting in 1970-75.

A total recapitulation of existent marketable woods, adaptable to the production of finished woods, indicates considerable possibilities in the direction of an economic development and an appropriate utilization of these resources.

Type of Wood

Million m3


Exportable wood



Class I



Class II



Classes III and IV





Beams and poles




Bibliography of Forestry and Forest Products of Paraguay

Klein, Morton A., A Forest Survey of Paraguay, Servicio Técnico Interamericano de Cooperación Agrícola, Asunción, Paraguay, June 1945 (English and Spanish).

Peterson, Syal E., Forest Products of Paraguay, Servicio Técnico Interamericano de Cooperación Agrícola, Asunción, Paraguay, December 1945 (English and Spanish).

Reichard, Eugene C., The Forest Resources of Paraguay and Their Possible Industrial Utilization, Inter-American Development Commission, Washington, D. C., July 1946 (English and Spanish).

Uderitz, George W., Technical Mission to Paraguay - Reports on the Forest, the Forest Industries, and Trade in Forest Products - Inter-American Development Commission, Washington, D. C. (English).

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