Despite recent controversies, PNG’S forestry sector is on a path towards greater sustainability practices and value-adding.
New Guinea is now the second-largest exporter of tropical hardwoods in the world, with about 15 million hectares of the country’s 30 million hectares of total land mass considered suitable for forestry development.
Products include raw log exports, sawn timber, veneer sheets, logs, plywood, processed timber and woodchips.
The PNG Forest Industries Association says PNG has a number of competitive edges over other timber-producing countries, including substantial wood and labour resources, and close proximity to world markets, including China and Japan for low-end products; and to Australia and the United States for high-value and value-added forestry products.
Ensuring export readiness
After an embarrassing government enquiry into Special Agricultural Business Leases (SABLS) in 2013, which showed some forestry operations were operating illegally, PNG’S foresters have been responding to a European Union ruling (EU Timber Regulation No.995/2010), which bans the importation of illegally harvested and produced timber products into EU markets.
PNG’S direct exports of forest products to the EU are modest— just 0.2% of the exports in 2011. Of this, plantation-grown balsawood is the single largest export.
However, the bulk of PNG’S timber finds its way into overseas markets via China, which bought 78% of PNG forest exports, mainly round logs, in 2011.
Much of this timber ultimately finds its way into the EU in manufactured products.
While any lasting effect of the EU ruling is likely to be on these particular exports, the industry is confident it is taking the right steps to mitigate the risk.
‘PNG is the only country in the world with 100% independent third-party monitoring of its log exports [by Swiss company SGS], so we are well placed to meet these emerging regulatory requirements,’ says Bob Tate, Executive Director of the peak industry body, the Papua New Guinea Forest Industries Association.