The Jakarta Post
Despite government plans to eradicate illegal logging that have been in place over the past five years, encroachment on the country's forests remains rampant, a recent report says.
The report, released by a number of NGOs grouped under the Coalition against Forestry Mafia and the Washington-based Forest Trends, said that more than 30 percent of the timber used by the country's industrial forest sector could be considered illegal.
'It stems from the unreported clear-cutting of natural forests and other illegal sources instead of legal tree plantations and well-managed logging concessions,' Forest Trends said in a press release.
The report came to such conclusions after comparing the amount of legal timber reported to the forestry ministry with the actual output of the industrial forestry sector.
The report found that the raw material used by the country's mills exceeded the legal supply by the equivalent of 20 million cubic meters, enough wood to fill more than 1.5 million logging trucks ' all from illegal sources.
According to the report, while the source of this illegal wood was unclear, it was likely from trees harvested during the clear-cutting of natural forests from new oil, palm and pulp plantations.
Given the area reportedly planted in oil, palm and pulp, the gap could easily be met by a conversion
In 2013, the forestry ministry reported that 53 percent of the timber harvested from natural forests came from this conversion of timber, 4,000 percent more than the ministry predicted in 2007.
In order to meet the demands from the industrial forestry industry, the government had pledged to boost the number of industrial forestry plantations as the primary source of legal wood in Indonesia.
The plantations produce fast-growing species of trees like acacia.
However, the report found that the plantation sector was dramatically underperforming.
In 2007, the forestry ministry predicted that by 2014, plantations would be producing at almost twice the rate reportedly achieved.
'If all companies implemented environmental commitments, such as zero deforestation pledges, it would be impossible to meet the current demand for timber. Instead of allowing new mills to be built, it would be advisable for Indonesia to put a hold on future expansion of the pulp and paper industry until they successfully increase the number of tree plantations,' Forest Trends president Michael Jenkins said.
Forest Watch Indonesia head Togu Manurung, who is a researcher at the Bogor Agriculture University, said the industrial forestry sector was not working efficiently.
'In the future, it is hoped that the main source of timber will not be natural forests anymore, but industrial forests. But the industrial plantations are growing at a snail's pace,' he said.
Togu said the slow growth was caused by the combination of the government's ban on log exports as well as the presence of paper giants like Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings (APRIL).
He said domestic sales alone had driven the prices of timber down to US$125 per cubic meter, half the international price.
'In addition to that, the two paper giants control up to 80 percent of Indonesia's total pulp and paper production. This is what causes the log price to be cheap and discourages other companies from opening up industrial plantations, since the price is too cheap,' he said on Tuesday. 'The ones who benefit [from the monopoly] are those two giants.'
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