1. Economic Change and National Forest Programmes
The roles and relative importance of any branch of primary production (i.e., agriculture, forestry), secondary production (i.e., manufacturing, forest industries, machine construction), and tertiary production (i.e., services, public services, communication) in national economies and societies has largely changed over the course of history.
Although there have been cyclical changes, a trend has been clear in all countries.The share of primary production in GDP started to decrease first. Later on the proportion of secondary production also began to decrease. Services in industrial countries that have been growing have finally taken the lead with regards to employment and value added. (This development is also clearly seen in the position of forestry and forest industries).
Since services are not largely exported, structural changes are less visible in the export figures. Nevertheless, these changes are significant. In Finland (for example) exports of forestry and the forest industry in the 1920’s were 80%-85%of the total export figure. Then in the 1960’s this was about 60% and has since fallen to be 25% in recent years.
Forestry and forest related activities cannot be taken for granted. The importance and multifunctionality of forests and the role of the forest sector in strengthening rural economies is as self evident to politicians and decision makers today as it was in the past. Forestry, like any other area of society, has to demonstrate to its decision makers, its capacity and potential to produce a forest that is related to various goods and services for the welfare of the people; and at the same time creates more income and employment.
Investigating the role of forest sector and forest-based products
It is not possible to demonstrate something if one is not aware of the present situation and the possible potential for future development. Therefore, increased research for improving the “self-knowledge” of the forest sector is needed by strengthening economic, socio-economic and development oriented research. Used as a tool this would be useful in constructing a realistic picture on the present role of forestry and forest-based industries and activities on a national level. Additionally, a study of the factors that influence the demand for forest.-based goods and services would be needed to prepare scenarios for development (i.e., including demand and markets for the products concerned).
The assessment of markets and the study of supply conditions would provide solid grounds for the evaluation of the development potential for selected products and services in the forest sector. This kind of research is also needed when preparing the major forest policy tool for the development of forest sector: The National Forest Programme.
National forest programmes (NFP) or national forest plans have become a major instrument for guiding forest based development from a holistic (national) point of view in Europe. Its purpose is to carefully assess the present situation, and to analyse the developmental paths that have led to the present stage. This includes a definition of goals and strategies for the future that are based on all relevant research (examples cited above).