Forests and the forestry sector


Forests in Belarus cover 9.4 million hectares or 45 percent of the country¿s land area. Coniferous species, predominantly Norway spruce and Scots pine, make up70 percent of the growing stock, and broad-leaved species such as oak, hornbeam and alder account for the rest. Virtually all forest is classified as semi-natural; planted forests account for only about 195 000 ha. All forest and other wooded lands are State owned.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries serious overcutting occurred, but fellings are at present appreciably less than net annual increment, leading to an increasing trend in the volume of growing stock and a predominance of young and middle-aged stands.

About three-quarters of the forest is classified as available for wood supply. Most of the remainder is reserved for conservation and environmental protection (e.g. water protection and other environmental functions). Nature reserves occupy a considerable area.

Products and trade
The forest sector in Belarus has a significant impact on the economy. The country has abundant roundwood production used mainly for sawnwood in both large State-owned and small private enterprises. Belarus has become a significant roundwood exporter to the Baltic countries and to Europe, providing low-cost raw material for their industries. Despite the increasing number of enterprises and growth of production output, a significant part of roundwood and nearly half of pulpwood production is exported. Belarus consumes a relatively small part of its own production of sawnwood and panels, but pulp and paper production does not meet the domestic demand. Hunting and the collection of a variety of non-wood forest products are important for the local population. The most important non-wood forest products are berries and mushrooms, which are processed locally and also exported. Turpentine, oleoresin and birch sap are mostly sold on the domestic market.

Radioactive contamination
Many millions of hectares of forest were contaminated by radioactivity after the Chernobyl accident 15 years ago. Because of the very long half-life of the elements concerned, this situation will continue for the foreseeable future. There is no realistic means of ¿cleaning¿ the area. Indeed, forests are probably one of the best ways of ¿storing¿ the radioactive contamination, to minimize further damage. A small area is completely inaccessible except to those carrying out carefully monitored and protected scientific research, and much larger areas have controlled access. Local authorities have acquired expertise and developed strategies for handling the situation.

There is a multi agency Chernobyl Task Force, in which the FAO/IAEA Joint Division participates. A strategy for the management of these radio-contaminated forests (drawn up by local experts with the help of ECE/FAO) was included in the multi-agency proposals for mitigating the social and economic consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, but has not been funded. The General Assembly will review this question once again this autumn, on the basis of a report by the Secretary General

Last updated: September 2003

last updated:  Thursday, January 14, 2016