Wood processors are urging Indonesia's government to speed up the replanting of deforested land into sustainable timber plantations to help secure a more constant supply of timber.
The Indonesian Pulp and Paper Association (APKI) and the Association of Indonesian Wood Panel Producers (Apkindo) on Monday urged the government to speed up the creation of new timber plantations, which are supposed to cover nine million hectares of deforested land by 2012, including 2.1 million hectares that are supposed to be managed by local communities.
“So far only around five million hectares of the target has been utilized to compensate for the deficit in the supply of raw materials, which had previously been provided internally by timber firms themselves and their partners,” said Muhammad Mansur, APKI chairman, on Monday.
Before the government began crackdowns on illegal logging began in 2006, pulp and paper producers and particle-board processors had few problems acquiring timber, and domestic mills could process far greater amounts of timber than was allowed to be legally cut.
Currently, Indonesian Forest Watch estimates the industry can obtain only about 50 percent of its required raw materials.
The government has earmarked 9 million hectares of deforested land for replanting, although the creation of industrial forests is behind schedule.
Illegal logging is still rife, Mansur said, despite government claims to the contrary, although timber has not been going to local processors.
Most illegal timber is smuggled for processing overseas to places like China to avoid detection, he said.
Mansur said the pulp and paper industry relied on timber imports and supplies from industrial forests, which currently cover only 26,611 hectares, to meet its annual need of 30 million cubic meters of timber.
“The need for raw materials will be bigger for 2009, as the pulp and paper industry this year has already started to increase production from 6.7 million tons per annum in 2008, in a bid to meet the target of 13.5 million tons set within five years by [Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry] Kadin,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ketut Kaller, the executive director of Apkindo, said his organization had planned to triple output to nine million cubic meters in five years, from three million cubic meters currently.
Much of the timber will be exported to the United States and Europe and will be expected to meet strict environmental requirements concerning its origin, Ketut said.
The Forestry Ministry has claimed that a crackdown on illegal logging in conjunction with programs that hand the management of forests to local residents has reduced illegal logging.
The ministry has pointed to the lower number of illegal logging cases that went to court in 2008 - 300 cases, from 9,600 cases in 2003.
However, environmentalists have said this scheme was not as well-managed as it could be. Widespread illegal logging remained a problem, they said.
Earlier in the year, the global economic slowdown saw demand for local timber fall. Mansur said domestic manufacturers were running at 44 percent of capacity in January.
The United States and European Union accounted for most of the declining demand. On Monday, Mansur said demand for forest products was still low, but was expected to improve in the coming years.
The country’s two biggest pulp and paper producers are PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper and PT Indah Kiat Pulp & Paper.
Riau Andalan, which is owned by the Raja Garuda Mas Group, and Indah Kiat, owned by the Sinar Mas Group, jointly accounted for about 4.2 million tons of the country’s total estimated production of 6.7 million tons in 2008.