UK Needs Forestry Investment

on Jun 4, 2012
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The Herald Scotland reported that annual statistics released by the UK Forestry Commission have once again proven that Britain is becoming increasingly dependent on imported timber. Data shows that wood products imported into the UK in 2010 were 10 million cubic metres of wood with an estimated value of £6.8 billion. When compared to timber imports in 2009, these figures represent an increase of 19 percent.

The online publication noted that Great Britain is one of the biggest importers of wood in the world, suggesting that domestic forestry investments may hold the key to making the country more self-reliant. The Herald gave as an example the state of Scotland’s forests, where strong timber prices have resulted in more trees being logged than the number of stands that are replanted. Predictions are that in 2017 supplies of Scottish softwood will peak and will thereafter steadily go down, hitting a low point around 2042. The reason for the anticipated downward trend, explains the Herald, is because conifer planting fell significantly between 1989 and 2010. Whereas 25,000 hectares (ha) of land were planted in 1989, in 1994 this number fell to about 5000ha. The rate at which forests in Scotland are being planted has since been reduced by nearly half, reaching an estimated 2700ha in 2010. In the last decade Scotland has logged about 70,000ha of conifers, while it replanted only about 45,000ha, says the Herald.

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Government officials have shown serious commitment to increasing the wooded areas in the country. The Herald explained that previous ambitions were to have 25 percent of the country’s land surface covered by forests by 2050. Currently, forests take up an estimated 17.8 percent of Scotland’s territory, which means that if these targeted afforestation rates were to be fulfilled, the country would have had to plant approximately 16,000ha every year. Today, forestry policies have become more liberal, with targeted rates of 100,000ha of woodland creation over the next 10 years.!m[](/uploads/story/47/thumbs/wood_roof_inline.png)

According to scientists at the James Hutton Institute, about 1.3 million ha in Scotland have the potential to provide fertile ground for forestry investments without any impact on agriculture. What is more, institute experts suggested that an additional 2.2 million ha might be suitable for reforestation, given certain environmental constraints.
The Herald identifies lack of confidence among private owners who are willing to invest in planting trees as one of the biggest obstacles to restoring the country’s forestry landscapes.

“We must have a system where people feel that they’re making a genuine commitment and that they are being rewarded in some way”, said Dr. Andrew Cameron, senior lecturer in the department of forestry at the University of Aberdeen.
Cameron further asserted that reintroducing some form of financial incentive, such as tax breaks, is essential to motivating investors.

“While some may baulk at revisiting a system of tax breaks to support forest expansion, after it became a huge political issue in the 1980s, it should be remembered that the world has changed greatly since then. There is now a well-established regulatory system to ensure that new areas of forest are of the highest standards of design and environmental protection,” he added.

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