BIOD: 1995 Tropical Log Trade Report


1995 ITTO Report on the Tropical Log Trade

Forest Networking a Project of Ecological Enterprises


Following is a report by the International Tropical Timber Organisation concerning the state of the tropical log trade in 1995. It is chalk full of interesting information documenting emergent trends in industrial rainforest conversion. Interesting findings include continued decline in Malaysian production (a failed forest management effort), increased logging in Africa and South America (the Amazon is particularly inviting for the ravenous tropical timber industry), a diversification of log sources for Japan and other Asian processors as traditional sources have been overharvested, and some former tropical log exporters have become importers of tropical logs as their tropical forests plunder is complete. Surprisingly, the source of this article is a paid supplement by the Papua New Guinea Forest Industries Association in the PNG weekly paper, _The Independent_. It is ironic that so many of the main points in the article clearly illustrate the short term nature of industrial forestry development; just as the failed model of Malaysian forestry practices is being replicated in Papua New Guinea, Africa and increasingly in the Amazon.

THE World trade in tropical logs is centred around three major producing areas -

Central Africa, Latin America and Asia/Pacific. The International Tropical Timber Organisation (I.T.T.O) has prepared its initial review of the tropical log trade for 1995.

_Log production_

The production of tropical logs in ITTO producer member countries totalled 132.8 million m3 in 1995, down two per cent from 135.6 million m3 in 1993. Decreases in Malaysian production were responsible for most of this decline, with most major African and Latin American producing countries increasing production in 1993-1994 before stabilising in 1995. Figure 1 shows ITTO's five major tropical log producers through 1995. Malaysian production, which peaked at 43.5 million m3 in 1992, dropped to 35 million m3 in 1995, a 20 per cent reduction in just three years.

Figure 1 (table constructed from interpretation of original bar graph, to nearest 500,000 m3):

Major Tropical Log Producers
Volume (1000 m3)

                    1993          1994          1995

Malaysia            37,000        35,500        35,000

Indonesia           37,000        35,000        34,000

Brazil              23,000        25,000        26,000

India               16,000        15,000        15,000

PNG                  3,000         3,500         3,000

Others               20,500        22,000        20,500

Together, the top four tropical log producing countries (Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil and India) comprise over 83 per cent of ITTO production. Papua New Guinea was the fifth largest ITTO log producer in 1993, but in 1994 Cameroon reported an increase in production of more than one million m3 (to 3.9 million m3) driven by a jump in exports to Asia, moving it ahead of PNG in that year. Cameroon's 1995 production dropped back to three million m3, so that PNG at 3.3 million m3 regained its number five ranking.

_Production increasing in some countries_

Ten other ITTO producer members had log production exceeding one million m3 in 1993. Half of these (Cameroon, Ecuador, Coted'Ivoire, Gabon and Peru) had increased log production over 1993 levels in 1995, while production fell in the other five (Myanmar, Ghana, Venezuela, Philippines and Colombia) through 1995. Of the main producers, log production is increasing in PNG, Cameroon, Gabon and Peru.

The regional breakdown of tropical log production and exports is given in Table 1. The Asia-pacific region's share of ITTO members' tropical hardwood log production fell to 67 per cent in 1995 from 71 per cent in 1993, due to Malaysian production increases. Africa's share of production remained at 7 per cent over the period, wth Latin American production growing from 22 to 25 per cent.

Table 1
Composition of Exports by Region, 1993-95 (100 m3 rwe)

                     Log Production                  Log Exports
                 1993     1994     1995         1993     1994     1995

Africa           9097    10836     9660         3250     4003     3476

Asia-Pacific    96259    91674    89640        13281    12266    11608

Latin America   30204    32567    33509          251     1052     1050

Total          135560   135077   132809        16782    17321    16134

                   Processed Exports                 Total Exports
                 1993     1994     1995         1993     1994     1995

Africa           2418     2849     2742         5668     6852     6218

Asia-Pacific    40771    37718    37794        54052    49984    49402

Latin America    3828     4526     5068         4079     5578     6118

Total           47016    45092    45603        63798    62413    61737

_Log consumption_

Figure 2 shows that tropical log consumption for 1993-95 was stable or decreasing in the main Asian markets of Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Japan, with only Brazil showing a steady increase over the period (note that Japan maintains and consumes significant stockpiles of tropical logs, accounting for differences between consumption and import figures). These five countries accounted for an average of 81 per cent of total ITTO consumption of tropical logs in 1993-95. The general trend towards increasing domestic log consumption which has been apparent in recent years will accelerate and affect all regions in the next few years as tropical log supplies tighten and as increased processing capacity comes on line in producing countries.


The composition of exports for 1993-95 from ITTO producing regions is shown in Table 1. The contribution of logs of total tropical timber exports, including manufactured products of ITTO producers, dropped from over 60 per cent in 1980 to an average of 26 per cent in 1993-95. A similar drop in log export revenues was observed. Only Africa continues to export a higher volume equivalent of logs than processed products. The Asia-Pacific region is rapidly replacing log export with the export of processed products, spurred by Indonesian plywood exports and Malaysian exports of sawnwood, veneer and plywood. Asian tropical log exports made up 25 per cent of total export volume in 1993-94 dropping to 23 per cent of total exports in 1995.

Papua New Guinea is the second largest tropical log exporter, with 1995 exports of 2.9 million m3 worth nearly US$400 million. The bulk of PNG's log exports go to Japan and Republic of Korea. PNG's log export controls appear to be working, as the discrepancies between export/import reports are becoming less significant.

Africa supplies the majority of the remainder of global tropical hardwood log exports. Gabon and Cameroon are the largest exporters, but Ghana, Coted'Ivoire and Congo all exported substantial quantities of logs in 1993-95. All of these countries experienced large increases in exports in 1993-94, primarily to China, Korea and Japan, which sought new log supplies to offset decreases from Malaysia.

Figure 2 (table constructed from interpretation of original bar graph, to nearest 100,000 m3):

Major Tropical Log Exporters
Volume (1000 m3)

                      1993          1994          1995

Malaysia              9400          8500          8000

PNG                   2700          3100          2800

Gabon                 1500          1500          1700

Myanmar               1000           600           700

Cameroon               700          1100          1000 

Others                1400          2500          2000           


Figure 4 shows the top ITTO log importers in 1993-95. Japan still dominates the global tropical log market, with its demand continuing to be met primarily by output from Malaysia, which supplied 60 per cent of Japan's total tropical log imports of 7.6 million m3 in 1994. Decreasing log exports from Sarawak and the export ban in Sabah have resulted in greater diversity of suppliers to the Japanese market in recent years, including softwood and temperate hardwood log exporters. Japan has increased tropical log imports from Africa, with 1993-94 imports over five times the 100,000m3 imported in 1992, mostly from Gabon and Cameroon. Imports from PNG have also increased to 1.9 million m3 in 1994 from 1.1 million m3 in 1992. Increased imports from all of these sources as well as from other non-ITTO sources such as the Solomon Islands (which supplied Japan with almost 350,000 m3 in 1995) have not been able to offset decreases from traditional sources, resulting in total Japanese imports of less than 6.6 million m3 in 1995.

China is the second largest ITTO tropical log importer at 3.8 million m3 in 1993, led by Taiwan Province of China's imports of almost 2.2 million m3 (down 45 per cent from 1992 levels). Aggregate imports by China and Taiwan province of China rose to 4 million m3 in 1995, due to increases in imports by the mainland, mainly from Africa (Gabon and Cameroon) and PNG.

The Republic of Korea is also a major ITTO tropical log consumer, absorbing 2.1 million m3 in 1993, mostly from Malaysia and PNG. Korea's imports were down one-third from 1992 levels, with a further decrease to 1.9 million m3 in 1994- 95. Korea, like Japan and some other Asian consumers, is undertaking to shift processing capacity to producing countries, close to resources and cheaper labour. Korea is also importing increased quantity of logs from Africa (primarily Ghana), with 1994 levels reaching 205,000 m3 compared to 21,000 m3 in 1992.

European countries imported over 2.4 million m3 of tropical logs in 1993, most of which came from African producers. France remains the largest of the European log importers, with imports of around 900,000 m3 per year over the past five years. France's tropical log supplies come mainly from Gabon, Cameroon and Congo. Italy, Portugal and Spain are also major European log importers, with over 250,000 m3 of log imports each in 1993.

Several ITTO producing countries have become net importers of logs, indicating the extent of wood shortages in their domestic forest sectors. Thailand and the Philippines were the major ITTO producer country importers of tropical logs, reflecting resource scarcity and logging bans in these countries. Peninsular Malaysia has also recently become a significant tropical log importer, with imports doubling from 174,000 m3 in 1993 to 350,000 in 1995.


Real export prices of most species in Asian/Pacific logs increased sharply in 1993 and early 1994, due to the perception of log shortages in Asia. Real prices more than tripled in dollar terms in some cases, causing substantial confusion in major markets. Prices underwent a generally steady decline throughout the last three quarters of 1994 as the Sabah export ban was relaxed and importers adjusted to the new supply situation. However, real Asian/Pacific log export prices in mid-1995 remained higher than before the 1993 price increase. Prior to 1993 most prices had been relatively stable for at least two years.

Real export prices for most important species of African log exports were relatively stable or declining during the 1993-95 period, although real prices of several species rose temporarily in mid late 1994. This was primarily due to increased demand from Asian markets for these species.

Figure 3 (table constructed from interpretation of original bar graph, to nearest 100,000 m3):

Major Tropical Log Importers
Volume (1000 m3)

                      1993          1994          1995

Japan                 8300          7600          6500

Taiwan                2200          2000          2000

Rep. of Korea         2100          1900          1800

Thailand              1600          1500          1500

China                 1600          2000 	  2000

Others                3500          3500          3300

Figure 4 (table constructed from interpretation of original bar graph, to nearest 500,000 m3):

Major Tropical Log Consumers
Volume (1000 m3)

                      1993          1994          1995

Indonesia            37000         35000         34000

Malaysia             28000         27500         27500

Brazil               22500         24000         25000

India                16000         15000         15000

Japan                10000          9000          8000

Others               26500         28000         26500

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