More than half a million tonnes of logs which are left at wood yards throughout Myanmar following a state-imposed log export ban will be up for sale soon through open tenders, a minister said.
As the government enforced a ban on exports of raw timber from April 1, over 750,000 tonnes of logs got stuck in timber yards around the country. However, exports of sawn and processed wood are still allowed.
“The left logs will be sold to enterprises that can use timber to make finished wood products or mills that can cut and process logs for sale,” U Aye Myint Maung, deputy minister for environmental conservation and forestry, told the parliament.
The minister said teak and hardwood production will continue despite the export ban to develop the country’s wood-based industries, but the government has decided to decrease processed teak output by a third this fiscal year to save Myanmar’s vanishing forests.
“The ministry has implemented a log export ban (LEB) instead of a logging ban. This will prevent deforestation and ensure long-term use of our natural resources. We have decided to reduce the rate of teak production year by year,” he said.
Myanmar will produce only 60,000 tonnes of teak and 670,000 tonnes of hardwood in 2014-15 fiscal year, the minister said. In 2013-14 FY, the country produced 93,178 tonnes of teak and 610,592 tonnes of hardwood, according to ministry data.
A total of 306,329 tonnes of teak and 1,548,075 tonnes of hardwood were produced in 2011-12 FY, while 2012-13 saw production of 269,516 tonnes of teak and 1,597,798 tonnes of hardwood.
Wood and wood-based products export earned Myanmar $947 million last year, making it one of the top foreign currency earners in the Southeast Asian country. Teak has been a major resource for Myanmar for centuries, and was an important source of income for the British during its colonial rule in Myanmar.
According to a 2010 Forest Resource Assessment (FRA) report, forested areas account for about 47 percent of the country, down from 58 percent in 1990 – a loss of 7,445,000 hectares (18.3 million acres) of forested areas during that period. With forests covering as much as 70 percent of Myanmar at the time of independence, Myanmar loses 0.3 percent of its forest cover annually.
Myanmar possesses the largest expanse of tropical forest in mainland Southeast Asia with a biodiversity much greater than temperate forests. As of 2010, Myanmar’s living forest biomass holds 1.65 billion metric tonnes of carbon and is home to over 80 endemic species. Despite the diversity and size of Myanmar’s forests, only 6.3 percent of the land is protected and much of it is under the threat of deforestation.
A report submitted to the Hluttaw stated that there are 41 million acres of forest reserve, 40 million acres of forested land and 30 million acres of cultivable land in the country, while private firms have created 107,453 acres of plantation under a replanting program initiated by the state.
In 2014-15, the government allotted K110.97 billion ($115 million) for its plantation programs, parliament member U Tin Maung Oo said in the report.
About 46,180 acres of hardwood plantation was created through state-private partnerships in the last two years, while 18 private companies plan to create another 13,000 acres of plantation in the next four years.