The world’s major timber producing countries fall into several regional groups, each of which has distinctive characteristics of timber production and use.
Timber Production in North America:
Despite growing exploitation of forests around the world, North America continues to dominate the timber industry. This is partly because the continent possesses vast forests, mostly of relatively easily extracted conifers. These forests might lie virtually unexploited, however, as do the remoter parts of the forests of Asiatic U.S.S.R., but for the large and convenient markets in southern Canada and the U.S.A.
These countries enjoy the highest standards of living in the world, and thus their demand for timber and timber products, as for most other products, outstrips that of other countries. The U.S.A. is the largest per capita consumer of pulp and paper products in the world and thus forms a market not only for its own pulp industries but also for those of Canada.
Forests cover about one-third of the land area of the U.S.A., and though Canada has a much larger area of forests, the U.S.A. produces about three times as much timber. This is because the American forests are all in areas which are relatively easily accessible.
They are close to major population centres in California, the north-east and in the Atlantic states and can be reached by road and rail communications. Thus while Canada has vast areas of forest which cannot be exploited, the forests of the U.S.A. tend to be overexploited in some areas.
The U.S.A. produces 20 per cent of the sawnwood, and 14 per cent of the world’s newsprint and yet its domestic supplies are not sufficient and much raw and processed timber has to be imported. Most of the imports come from Canada in the form of timber, pulp and newsprint.
About three- quarters of the timber cut in the U.S.A. consists of softwoods but broadleaved forests are exploited in the east and south of the country. The U.S.A. is the second largest producer of conifers after the U.S.S.R. and one of the largest commercial producers of broadleaved timber. There are three main lumbering regions corresponding roughly with the main types of natural forest cover.
(a) The Pacific North-West:
The north-western and mountain forests of the U.S.A. contain Douglas firs, hemlocks, Sitka spruces, cedars and many other species including, in some areas, the enormous sequoias or redwoods which may be 90 metres (300 ft) high and 20 metres (65 ft) in girth. Because of the heavy rainfall and mild climate the coastal forests are luxuriant, but generally speaking the mountain forests further inland are less valuable because the climate is drier, the trees are smaller, and the range of species is narrower.
The western region is the leading timber producing region of the U.S.A., partly because of the luxuriance of its forests and the large size of some of its trees such as the redwood and Douglas fir, and partly because it is the last great forest area of the country to be exploited, though continuous cutting and several serious forest fires have left only a small proportion of virgin forest.
Areas farther east and south were successively exploited in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and development of the western forests only really began on a large scale in the 1920s. The western region produces about half the annual timber output of the U.S.A., and despite replanting and the fairly rapid rate of growth of the trees in the damp maritime climate, the rate of replacement is almost everywhere exceeded by removals. Removals of trees for sawn timber are twice as great as renewals.
The high quality and large size of the trees in the mature forests of the region make it the major source of sawnwood and Washington and Oregon are the two largest U.S. producers of sawnwood. Douglas fir is the leading timber of North America and also the most widely used because of its suitability for a wide variety of uses in construction, plywood and veneer making.
However the continual exploitation has somewhat depleted the stocks of Douglas fir and many other trees such as the Ponderosa pine, Jeffrey pine, hemlock, white pine and various spruces and firs are being increasingly exploited. These are used for construction and also for pulping purposes.
Because of the later development of the western forests the pulp industry, already well-established in the east, was slow to develop but the advantages of a good supply of timber and huge H.E.P. resources from numerous dams on the Columbia River and its tributaries, has led to the emergence of many major pulp concerns in the region.
The main centres are the cities on Puget Sound, especially Seattle and Tacoma, where timber, power and water are available and there is easy access to the sea. Some large integrated plants exist, and produce a range of products from sawnwood to fibreboard, but there is still a larger proportion of smaller mills, and of sawmills rather than pulp mills, than in the older forestry regions. The forests are mainly state-owned and leases are worked by large companies on a highly mechanized basis. Even the dropping of seedlings by aircraft to simplify re-afforestation has been tried.
(b) The South:
Second only to the western forests as a timber producing region is the South, where there are wide stretches of yellow pine forests containing longleaf, slash and loblolly pines. The region was the leading U.S. producer in the early twentieth century, but was displaced by the development of the western region.
Unlike the west where much of the natural forest remains, much of the southern forests is secondary growth, but the region nevertheless accounts for about one-third of U.S. timber production. The pine trees of the region are highly resinous and the region therefore also produces almost all the U.S. supplies of pitch, tar and turpentine. The main importance of the region, however, is in the pulp and paper industry, though the industry has only grown up since the 1920s.
While much of the western forests is still under public ownership and is only leased to timber operators, most of the southern forests are privately owned by a number of large timber and pulp companies. Many of the major pulping firms are in fact controlled by the paper manufacturers such as Bo-waters.
The large companies, wishing to ensure a constant supply of timber for their large integrated mills, have bought vast forest areas and these produce anything from a half to the entire timber requirements for the mills. This reduces dependence on outside supplies, reduces transport problems and therefore ensures more economical operation. In their own forests the companies maintain supplies by constant replanting.
One great advantage of the South in this respect is that the warm, moist climate allows the trees to grow quickly; only thirty or forty years are required for a tree to mature in this region. The rapid rate of growth and the emphasis placed on replanting in the region have maintained forest resources in spite of constant timber extraction.
The major pulp products of the South are newsprint and coarser papers and cardboard used for packaging. These are produced by the sulphate chemical process since the resinous pines cannot be mechanically processed. All the plants produce roughly the same types of paper because they all rely on local timber.
The paper industry, like the textiles industry, moved southwards in the early twentieth century to take advantage of cheaper labour and abundant timber supplies when the north-eastern timber resources had been almost exhausted. The industry also took advantage of H.E.P. developments in the region, for example in the T.V.A. area.
The main plants are situated near the coast (e.g. Savannah, Jacksonville, Mobile) in the Tennessee Valley (e.g. Knoxville, Chattanooga), and the Alabama Valley (e.g. Calhoun, Montgomery). The plant at Calhoun is one of the largest in the world. Towns such as Knoxville, Chattanooga, and further west, Austin, Oklahoma City and Kansas City, produce sawnwood and furniture as well as pulp products.
(c) Northern and Eastern Forests:
During the nineteenth century, first the spruce and fir forests of northern New England, particularly Maine, were exploited, and later the white, red and jack pine forests of the Great Lakes region became important. However, overcutting, the expansion of agriculture and industry in the region, and the lack of replanting led to the depletion of these forests and the rise of the South to prominence. Because these regions were the first to be developed they have suffered most at the hands of unscrupulous timber fellers, and forests have been completely removed or badly degraded in many areas.
Unfortunately much of the land is privately owned in small plots, partly because of its earlier settlement, and this makes the task of re-afforestation more difficult. Thus the northern and eastern states produce relatively little timber today and hardly any sawnwood.
However, their long-established pulp and paper industries have survived and still produce more than one-third of the U.S.A.’s pulp and paper. Their timber supplies are drawn from outside the regions or from replanted timber, and local hardwood supplies are also increasingly used.
The pulp and paper industry has a long history in such areas as New York State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Maine, and unlike the South, where production is in large plants and all the plants produce similar papers, the northern and eastern companies produce a wide range of papers, often in smaller, specialized plants.
In fact only specialization has enabled some companies to keep going against the competition from large-scale producers elsewhere. Many eastern firms have taken advantage of new methods and have been using not only timber from other parts of the U.S.A., but also a variety of imported timber. Maine, with its spruce supplies, is the major area of mechanical pulp production in the U.S.A. and both chemical and semi- chemical processes are used in other parts of the region.
Fall River and Pittsfield are the two major New England paper towns and there are numerous small towns in northern New York State and in Maine where pulp and paper is important. The major centres in the Great Lakes region are Buffalo and Milwaukee, Wisconsin being the most important producing state in this region. Much of the paper produced is high quality book and writing paper rather than coarser papers, but Maine makes largely newsprint.
If the barren northlands beyond the tree- line are excluded, forest covers as much as 60 per cent of Canada, but despite these vast forest reserves, production is much smaller than in the U.S.A. This is because about half of Canada’s forests are far beyond the reach of roads and railways and are too inaccessible for economic exploitation. Thus although timber is exploited in almost every province there are only two important areas of production in the east and west of the country.
The forests of the northern parts of the so-called Prairie provinces are little utilized because not only are they distant from the major route- ways which run west to east across the Prairies, but they are far from the sea and timber would be difficult to export. Because of its small population Canada has a large surplus of timber and timber products for export, and it supplies the U.S.A. and Britain as well as many other countries.
Almost all Canada’s timber is coniferous as the country is too far north to have much deciduous forest and the preponderance of spruce in the eastern forests means that newsprint is the major timber product. Canada is in fact the largest newsprint producer in the world accounting for about 36 per cent of the total.
It thus contrasts with the U.S.A. where relatively little newsprint is made and where packaging materials and high quality papers are more important. The preponderance of Douglas fir in the western forests also makes Canada a leading producer of sawnwood, accounting for about 10 per cent of the world total. Much sawnwood is also exported.
(a) British Columbia:
Western Canada, with its luxuriant forests of Douglas fir, hemlock, spruce and cedar is a major producer of sawnwood for the building, construction and furniture industries and produces about half of Canada’s annual timber output. Accessibility is generally good because of the long, indented coastline backed by timbered slopes. In fact British Columbia has about 70 per cent of Canada’s accessible reserves of timber for sawnwood production.
The Douglas fir is Canada’s leading timber by value, though spruce (produced to a greater extent in the east) is the leading timber by volume. Canada is the third largest sawnwood producer in the world and British Columbia produces the majority of this timber.
Logs are extracted almost all the year round from the forested slopes traditionally by the use of a spar tree but nowadays a steel tower is used as a spar from which the logs can be lowered to the valley floor for transport by railway to the sawmills and timber processing plants.
British Columbia has many timber-based industries such as plywood production, furniture-making and the construction of prefabricated buildings, the main centres being Vancouver and New Westminster on the coast, and Chilliwak inland. Nelson is a lumbering centre on the Columbia River.
Although British Columbia is traditionally a supplier of sawnwood and constructional timber products, it is now becoming, like north-west U.S.A., a major pulp and paper making region. Stimulated by the tapping of H.E.P. from the Fraser and Columbia Rivers, huge integrated mills have been set up in recent years. Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, e.g. Prince George, are the major pulping areas.
Lumbering is also important on Vancouver island, especially at Alberni on the deep inlet known as the Alberni Canal, and at Gold River on Muchalet Inlet, which are pulping centres. Pulp produced in British Columbia is used both for paper and for rayon manufacture.
British Columbia not only supplies Canadian demands for sawnwood and timber products but also has a ready market in western U.S.A., where the expansion of population is rapid, and thus the demand for constructional wood is large. In fact the British Columbian lumbering industry is heavily financed by U.S. capital investment and links with the north-west of U.S.A. are very close.
(b) Eastern Canada:
Forest stretches east in a broad belt from the Rocky Mountain slopes to the Atlantic Ocean and these forests are exploited wherever transport facilities make them sufficiently accessible. In practice the forests of the Prairie provinces are little used and the major lumbering areas are in the Maritime Provinces and the St. Lawrence- Great Lakes region.
The forests east of the Rockies are not as valuable as those to the west because the trees are smaller and of less valuable species due to the harsher climate and the poor soils of the Laurentian Shield region. The major species are spruce, balsam fir and a variety of pines. The most important type of tree is the red spruce, which is ideal for pulping purposes.
The greatest concentration of lumbering and timber industries is in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, where the numerous rivers, falling from the shield-lands to the lowlands of southern Ontario and the St. Lawrence valley, provide enormous power potential. The pulp and paper industry demands great power supplies and many of the major falls have been harnessed to provide H.E.P. requirements, e.g. on the Saguenay River and along the St. Lawrence Seaway. The pulp industry is the major user of H.E.P. in Canada.
Apart from power supplies the rivers provide a cheap means of transport for the logs and also supply the essential requirements for clear, unpolluted water for soaking and bleaching the pulp. Moreover the spruce trees, which abound, are the most suitable for use in pulp-mills and can be processed either mechanically or chemically. As a result Canada’s pulp output is second only to that of the U.S.A. and amounts to about 15 per cent of the world total. Canada is also the leading newsprint producer.
Lumbering in eastern Canada was traditionally a seasonal occupation, the trees being felled in the autumn and dragged over the frozen ground in winter to the riversides. The logs were then floated downstream in the spring when the rivers thawed and were swelled with melt-water. However, the use of modern machinery has reduced the dependence on seasonal climatic conditions and the occupation is becoming more of a permanent activity.
This tendency is enhanced by the modern systems of forest management, whereby huge areas, owned or leased from government by the timber companies, are organized in such a way as to produce a constant supply of timber for the mills. Eastern Canada makes all types of paper and also produces sawnwood, furniture and other timber products but the most important product is still newsprint. The majority of the production comes from huge, fully-integrated mills, rather than small plants.
The main producing centres are Quebec, Montreal and Toronto. Ottawa, Hull, Pembroke and Renfrew in the Ottawa valley; Cornwall on the St. Lawrence Seaway, St. John, Fredricton, Chatham and Bathurst in New Brunswick; Liverpool and Sheet Harbour, Nova Scotia; and Grand Falls and Corner Brook, Newfoundland, are all major pulp, newsprint, timber, furniture and paper producers.
The lack of agricultural resources in Newfoundland makes forestry and pulp and paper-making very important activities in the island, and the Bowaters plant at Corner Brook is probably the largest newsprint mill in the world. In general, however, though the lumbering industry is an important money earner for the Maritime Provinces, the industry is more highly developed and on a larger scale in southern Ontario and Quebec.
Canada’s pulp and newsprint production finds ready markets in north-eastern U.S.A., where the large population, long-established paper-making and publishing industries, and the generally high consumption rate of pulp and paper products, makes demand very large. Much timber, pulp and newsprint are also exported to Britain and the rest of Europe where timber is in short supply.
The importance of the British market is reflected in the large British investment in Canadian forest industries. Pulp is also used in the St. Lawrence- Great Lakes industrial belt of Canada, in northern U.S.A. and New England for making rayon, since spruce wood pulp is particularly suitable for this purpose. Montreal, Toronto and London (Ontario) are textiles centres.
Timber Production in the U.S.S.R.:
In terms of total timber production the U.S.S.R. is the world’s leading country, and this is hardly surprising when the enormous extent of its coniferous forest belt is considered. Forests stretch almost continuously from Scandinavia to Kamchatka between the latitudes of 70° and 50°N and contain the world’s largest reserves of virgin timber. The major species found are firs, including the Siberian fir and silver fir, stone pine and other pines, spruce and larch.
There are also large reserves of hardwoods in the southern and western forests. As a result the U.S.S.R. produces about 15 per cent of the world’s timber, but development is very uneven. The most exploited area is that of northern European Russian, both in the area known as Karelia to the east of Finland, and farther east in the Dvina basin.
Logs from these areas are floated to sawmills and pulp mills in the Leningrad and Arkhangelsk (Archangel) regions. More recent developments have taken place in Siberia, but these are still of relatively little importance. The enormous distances to be covered and the general inaccessibility of the Asiatic forests of the U.S.S.R. have delayed development in the region.
Nowadays, however, timber is cut and floated down the Ob and Yenisey rivers to Salekhard and Igarka for processing or for export via the Northern Sea Route, which is kept open by ice-breaker fleets. Development is also taking place on the southern margins of the forests with the assistance of newly built roads. There are sawmilling centres at Tavda, Tomsk and Bratsk.
There is also a very large pulp mill, claimed to be the world’s largest at Bratsk, based on local H.E.P. supplies. The Pacific seaboard forests are being exploited also, the logs being transported by sea, and Japan is playing a major role in forest exploitation in this area.
Despite the recent developments in Siberia, the western forests remain more important, and support the greatest concentrations of sawmilling and timber processing plants. Arkhangelsk on the White Sea, Petrozavodsk on Lake Onega, and Leningrad are the main sawmilling centres.
The pulp and paper industries are concentrated at and around Leningrad, though there are many other centres including Moscow, Gorki, Gomel, Bobruysk (near Minsk) and Kostroma. The Russian timber industry has been rather slow to develop and was hindered by primitive extraction methods in the early days.
Nowadays modern equipment is used and the logs are processed in very large, well-equipped mills. Nevertheless the U.S.S.R. still lags behind the West in the development of timber industries such as pulp and paper. While the U.S.A. for instance, has well-developed industries, and Canada, where conditions of climate and accessibility more closely resemble the U.S.S.R., has an enormous pulp and paper production, most of Russia’s timber production is still in log or sawnwood form. The U.S.S.R. is the world’s largest sawnwood producer (27 per cent) but produces only 9 per cent of the world’s pulp.
Production of paper is also about 6 per cent of the total, but the U.S.S.R. has a larger share of fibreboard production and is the third largest producer. This reflects the lower standard of living and consequent lower per capita consumption of paper and paper products in the U.S.S.R., for despite its relatively small production, the U.S.S.R. still exports newsprint.
However, most of the U.S.S.R.’s exports consist of logs for pulping or sawnwood purposes and of already processed sawnwood. Britain is a major importer of Russian timber. In the future it is likely that timber available for export will diminish as more and more processing industries are developed within the Soviet Union.
Timber Production in Europe:
Lumbering and forest industries in Europe are in general highly developed, partly because they are of long standing. Forest management is very scientific, as indeed it must be, to maintain supplies of timber in a region which has a dense population with a high standard of living and a high demand for timber and timber products, especially paper.
In many parts of Europe, e.g. Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Denmark almost all the original forest cover has long been removed. Less than 10 per cent of the land is forested and essential supplies have to be imported. On the other hand the Scandinavian countries, with their empty northern forests, have a surplus of timber which they export to the rest of Europe and to more distant markets.
Some attempts to overcome this unbalanced distribution have been made by planting areas of limited agricultural value with quick-growing conifers, e.g. in the Landes and Massif Central of France, in the Geest of northern Germany and in northern and western Britain as well as the Breckland of East Anglia. But this has done little to satisfy the ever-growing demand.
The lack of local timber supplies in Great Britain has not, however, prevented the development of an important paper-making industry, producing both newsprint and high-quality papers. The pulp industry has grown up on the major estuaries and in coastal locations such as at Aberdeen, Dundee, the Thames estuary and the Manchester Ship Canal and logs for processing are imported chiefly from Sweden and Russia.
More important is the pulp, imported from Canada and Sweden and made into paper in Britain. There was also an integrated paper mill at Fort William in Scotland, which used locally grown wood. Many small-scale, specialized paper mills have an inland location, e.g. in the English Midlands. Britain makes about 1.4 per cent of the world’s newsprint and about 3 per cent of other paper and paperboard.
Apart from rather limited activities in Britain the two major paper companies, Reeds and Bowaters, have extensive interests in Canada and the U.S.A., where they own or partly own forests and large integrated mills in the southern states, in Newfoundland and in British Columbia. Rising costs of fuel are reducing the efficiency of paper production in Britain and some plants, including that at Fort William have had to close.
The major timber producing countries in Europe are Sweden and Finland. Norway’s forest industries are somewhat less important because of its limited forest area; most of its uplands are above the tree-line. In Sweden and Finland much of the original forest cover remains, and where forests have been felled, strict control is enforced over replanting and conservation, even though much of the forest is privately owned.
Silviculture has been practised for about 100 years and trees form one crop on mixed farms in Scandinavia. Pasture, arable land and woodland are owned by most farmers and the trees are protected against disease, thinned, felled and replanted at regular intervals. Forest production is enhanced by drainage systems and the introduction of trees from other countries where this gives a higher yield of timber.
In Sweden about 50 per cent of the land is under forest, mostly in the north of the country, and in Finland the proportion is about three-quarters. In fact farmers in Finland are encouraged to go out of arable farming, which is less lucrative, and turn their land over to forest in order to increase the forest area and thus boost timber output.
The major commercial tree species are the Scots pine, Norway spruce, fir and larch and these are exploited for both sawnwood and pulp and paper, though the pulp industry is much the most important, especially in Sweden. Logging and sawmilling is on a fairly large scale and an increasing proportion of the output comes from a few large companies as smaller firms succumb to competition.
Timber extraction is often highly mechanized and the large integrated mills, situated on the coasts of the Gulfs of Bothnia and Finland are well positioned to receive logs floated down from the forests and to export sawnwood, pulp or paper. They obtain their power supplies from H.E.P. stations situated on the major rivers at the Fall-line, where the rivers fall from the uplands to the coastal plain.
Finland also imports electricity supplies from the U.S.S.R. The main towns in northern Sweden with timber industries are Harnosand and Sundsvall. Farther south the major region is around the Swedish lakes, especially Lake Vaner. Matches are made at Jonkoping and paper at Orebro, Karlstad, Norrkoping and Trollhattan.
In Finland there are timber industries at the coastal ports of Vaasa, Oulu and Pori, which also export timber and timber products, as well as in the main forest area, the central plateau. The main centre is Tampere. Sawnwood, pulp, paper, furniture and other woodworking industries are all important and, in addition, Finland has an important engineering industry, manufacturing wood-processing machinery both for the home market and for export.
Finland and Sweden produce less than 2 per cent each of the world’s total timber production, but their international significance is greater than this implies because, since they have small populations, they have a large surplus for export. Sweden produces nearly per cent of the world’s pulp and is a major exporter while Finland supplies a further 4.5 per cent of the world’s pulp much of which is exported. Much of this pulp goes to Britain and other European countries with small local timber resources. Finland is also a leading exporter of sawnwood.
Norway is a less important lumbering country with about 25 per cent of its land under forest. As in the other Scandinavian countries the forests are owned mostly by farmers. Silviculture and forest improvement are important and new species have been introduced from Alaska and British Columbia in afforestation schemes aimed at increasing the forested area. Norway exports mainly pulp and paper. Trondheim is an exporting centre as well as having timber industries, and further south Honefoss is a sawmilling centre; Sarpsborg and Fredrickstad have pulp and paper mills and Drammen has a wide range of timber processing industries.
Germany has almost one-third of its land under forest, more than most West European countries, and this reflects the poor soil conditions in the North German Plain (the Geest), where agriculture cannot be practised economically. There are also forest areas in the south, in the Black Forest and the Bavarian foothills of the Alps.
In the north, Bremen is the main paper-making centre while in the south Munich and Stuttgart make paper, furniture, toys and have well-established publishing industries. Southern Germany is also noted for various wood-based cottage crafts such as toy and clock making and wood carving. Germany produces only 1 per cent of the world’s timber but is a major pulp, newsprint and paper producer and also makes fibre- boards, particle boards and rayon.
About one-fifth of France is forested, and a vigorous policy of afforestation is increasing the area under trees in order to reduce imports, to make use of land marginal or too poor for agriculture, to protect water supplies, to prevent soil erosion, and to fix dunes. The largest forest area is the Landes in the south-west where coniferous trees have been planted and yield naval stores and timber for pulp and paper. Bayonne is the main processing centre and exporting port for naval stores.
Many other areas such as the Sologne and Dry Champagne in the Paris Basin, the Vosges, the Ardennes, the Pyrenees, Jura and Alps all have large forest areas either planted or natural. Two-thirds of French forests are of deciduous or mixed coniferous and deciduous trees. The main paper-making centres are Nantes in the west and Grenoble in the south-east, as well as the Paris area. Belgium has forests in the Ardennes and the afforestation of already-depleted forests in this area is important. Total output is insignificant though Brussels and Liege both have paper industries. The Netherlands has little forest land but makes paper and rayon, mostly with imported timber and pulp.
The central and east European countries have both forest and paper-making industries. The major producers and their chief timber centres are Czechoslovakia (Pilsen, Kosice); Poland (Gdansk, Bydgoszcz and Torun); Austria (Graz, Klagenfurt); Romania (Carpathians, Brasov) and Yugoslavia.
In most of the countries of southern Europe timber stands have been reduced by over-exploitation in the past or by grazing animals. Much of the timber removed today is used for fuel. Italy has the most important timber industries in this region, using both local and imported timber and pulp supplies to make paper and rayon in such towns as Turin and Milan.
North America, the U.S.S.R. and Europe together account for just over half of the world’s total timber removals but they far outstrip the rest of the world in their timber industries, consuming 80 per cent of the world’s industrial timber. In fact, outside these areas timber industries are not yet well developed, and only a few countries, such as Japan, Brazil and Malaysia, exploit their timber on a commercial basis.
Timber Production in Asia:
China, Indonesia, Japan and India are the major Asian timber producers but in all these, except Japan, a large proportion of the timber removed from the forests each year is used for fuel rather than as the basis for industry. Pulp and paper are, however, produced in both China and India.
Japan has valuable forest areas, mainly on uplands and in areas which have been found unsuitable for agriculture. Its forests, though limited, are scientifically and efficiently managed, like those of Europe or North America, and as a result, Japan is a major producer of both coniferous timber, from the northern island of Hokkaido, and broadleaved timber, from the southern islands.
Much of its production is used for industrial purposes. Japan produces 9 per cent of the sawnwood, 8 per cent of the pulp, 10 per cent of the newsprint and 10 per cent of other paper and paper- boards in the world. As a major industrial country with a high timber consumption, it also needs to import a large volume of timber to supply its industry.
It imports tropical hardwoods, chiefly from Malaysia and the Philippines, and coniferous logs from the U.S.S.R. It is also collaborating with the Soviet government to set up timber extraction and processing plants in eastern Siberia.
South-East Asia is another area where timber is an important commodity. The tropical and monsoon forests of the region contain many highly-valued hardwoods which are used in furniture and veneer making, as well as many less valuable species, which are used for sawnwood or for plywood, for the building and construction industry. Burma and Thailand were traditionally famous for their teak production, but in recent years this has been reduced to conserve forest supplies.
Malaysia and the Philippines have risen to prominence among South-East Asian producers, and they have many advantages. Their luxuriant forests are found on islands or peninsulas and are at no point very distant from the sea, so that they can be extracted relatively easily. This is in contrast to the forest resources of Thailand or Burma, for instance, where the best forests are found well inland and logs have to be transported by river to the coast. In Peninsular Malaysia most of the logs can be readily transported to roads and railways, and thus easily reach the coast.
South-East Asia has the further advantage of being near the major timber markets of Japan and Australia, both of which are short of local timber. European countries are also major importers of Malaysian timber. The timber industry has been encouraged by the governments in both Malaysia and the Philippines, and the clearance of large areas of land for settlement and agriculture has also promoted the timber industry.
Lumbering in these areas is largely an export- orientated activity and Malaysia is the world’s leading hardwood exporter, with Philippines and increasingly, Indonesia as competitors. Now that the timber industry has been built up the emphasis has turned to the development of processing industries such as sawmilling, veneer, plywood, furniture and paper- making, because this enhances the value of the exports.
The leading area of exploitation is Sabah, East Malaysia, where the accessible forests of the East Coast are the most used and where the rivers are suitable for floating logs down to the leading timber- handling ports of Tawau and Sandakan. Sarawak also possesses vast reserves of timber, but these are rather less accessible and have been less exploited.
In Peninsular Malaysia much of the timber comes from the uplands, and from areas being cleared for agriculture, such as the Jengka Triangle in Pahang. Too rapid exploitation is the main danger faced by the Malaysian industry, and it is very important that conservation and replanting measures are carried out to prevent soil erosion, forest degeneration and floods.
Timber Production in Australia and New Zealand:
Australia has little natural forest, due to the rather dry climate of most of the country, but has some reserves in the moister south-east and in Tasmania. The major tree type is the eucalyptus, which yields rather poor quality timber, but Australia also possesses reserves of the valuable jarrah and karri species, largely in the south-west of the country in Swanland, Western Australia.
The wood of these trees is extremely hard and is resistant to both water and fire. It is thus much used for construction of piers and jetties, for railway sleepers and in other situations where durability is important. Australia exports some of this valuable timber. Australia has few local softwood resources but many conifers have been planted in order to provide larger supplies. New Zealand has some small softwood reserves, mostly in the less-settled South Island, including the kauri pine.
Timber Production in Latin America:
Despite its huge areas of forests, Latin America is a relatively unimportant timber producing area. Most of the countries rank high in the list of total forest removals, but almost all of them use the vast majority of their timber for fuel. Brazil is the only major commercial timber producer of any significance and it is interesting to note that the bulk of its industrial wood comes not from its vast tropical forests in Amazonia, but from the Parana pine forests of the south.
This is partly due to the difficulties of extraction in the tropical forests and the difficulties of transporting the logs, when extracted, to the main industrial and population centres in the south-east, and also to the greater versatility of conifers for industrial use.
The Parana pines are found relatively near the main industrial areas of south-east Brazil, as well as in Paraguay and northern Argentina. Brazil accounts for 2 per cent of world coniferous production, and 10 per cent of broadleaved production.
The demands for fuel in Brazil and in many other Latin American countries are large and include both domestic and industrial consumption, because supplies of coal are severely limited and substantial oil supplies have only been discovered in most South American states in recent years.
Apart from Brazil, Colombia, and Haiti in the Caribbean, are the leading timber producers, mostly for fuel, and Chile and Argentina are also important, having a small production of industrial wood.
Both Brazil and Argentina as well as Paraguay are major producers of quebracho wood, from the bark of which tannin is extracted, and this enhances their use of the forests, even though not for timber.
Timber Production in Africa:
Many of the African countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia and Sudan are major timber producers, but the majority of the wood extracted is used as fuel. However, there is a growing realization of the importance of forests in the economy and many countries, especially in West Africa, have turned to commercial extraction of timber, using modern equipment to overcome the disadvantages of the tropical environment.
Among the most important of the countries to exploit their forests in this way are Nigeria, Cameroun, Gabon and Zaire though by world standards their commercial output is small. It is unlikely that Africa will ever become a major timber producer despite its relative nearness to North American and European markets, because, generally speaking, forests are less extensive and often less luxuriant than in Latin America or South-East Asia.
The largest area of forest is in the Zaire basin, and this suffers from transportation difficulties. The seasonally dry climates of the savanna regions and the high altitudes of much of central Africa make forests more open, and the activities of shifting cultivators make many areas unusable. The removal of trees in the savanna regions can have disastrous effects and in periods of drought can speed the encroachment of desert conditions, especially where small seedlings are eaten by livestock or used for fuel by the herders.
South Africa has some areas of temperate forests but these are of only local significance as are the plantations of coniferous trees in the Republic. Like South America, Africa has a considerable production of tannin, derived in this case from the wattle tree, grown in plantations in South Africa and Kenya.