3. Looking to the Future

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The future of forest industries will depend on many factors but two of them are of key importance in the long term:

1. the demand for forest industry products and,
2. the sufficiency of future wood supply.

Product demand  

The long-term demand for forest industry products is determined by numerous factors, of which only population growth can be reliably predicted. Other factors include: economic growth, technological developments (e.g., the influence of information technologies on paper consumption), prices of substitute products (i.e., other products that can be used for similar purposes such as wood or bricks in house building) and the development of forest product prices and changing consumer preferences. Short-term demand is related to the available income of people and product prices.

In general, the fastest growing markets for both wood and paper products are seen to be in countries that are developing their market economies in Europe and within Asia's large growing economies.

Future wood supply

The rate of deforestation and many new land use pressures on forests continue, thus shrinking the land area available for wood production. Would this mean increasing the scarcity of future wood availability for forest industries?

Two different scenarios or views are available according to the presentation by Nilsson and Bull (2005):   

According to the first scenario, decades ago the FAO and other organisations had already investigated wood supply in the world and its regions. The results of these studies showed that the global timber harvest had increased over time and would continue to increase in the future, albeit at a lower rate. Nevertheless, most studies concluded that the supply of industrial round wood will be sufficient even up until 2050. Forest plantations have been seen as a secure source of the supply of wood for industrial needs. It has been predicted that by 2030, plantations will be responsible for approximately 45% of the total global industrial supply. It has also been concluded that the consumption of fuel wood and charcoal per capita has peaked and that most of the developing countries will change from fuel wood and charcoal to commercial energy - mainly fossil fuel. By combining these findings we can reach the conclusion that there would be no major competition between industrial round wood and fuel wood uses globally. (Taken also into account is the increased use of recycled paper as a fibre source where most studies have concluded that there is no industrial roundwood supply problem.) (Nilsson and Bull 2005).

In the second scenario, two other studies flagged different possible futures. Nilsson argued in 1996 that if all demands for forest ecosystem services are going to be fulfilled, this will result in substantial competition within forest resources and may lead to a future deficit in industrial round wood. The World Resources Institute's study in 1999 stressed that a tight supply/demand balance for coniferous round wood is foreseen in a number of key regions around the world already by 2010 (Nilsson and Bull 2005).

Time will tell which view correctly demonstrates the future path. It is important to recognize that the recent increase in oil prices have brought on some competition between industrial and energy wood use.

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