The Irrawaddy

Government Orders Cut in Teak Production, Bans Private Timber Operations

YANGON — The government has ordered timber production be reduced by 40 percent in the 2017-18 fiscal year, while banning private timber operations altogether, according to the Naypyitaw Forestry Department.

The department will oversee the production of only 15,000 tons of teak and 350,000 tons of hardwood from forests across the country.

According to the department, the state-owned Myanma Timber Enterprise has a quota to cut down 19,200 teak trees and 592,330 timber trees annually, but this fiscal year it will harvest only 10,620 teak trees and 193,412 other timber trees.

Moreover, the government has placed a ban on private logging in order to control the loss of forest cover, said U Aung Chein, director of the Forestry Department.

“We no longer grant permits to private loggers. Only Myanma Timber Enterprise is producing timber and teak now,” he said.

The government has imposed a 10-year ban on the logging of teak and timber covering the entire Bago Mountain Range, the major source of Myanmar’s world-famous strain of teak, from 2017 to 2027.

At present, forest covers 29.31 percent of the Bago Mountain Range, according to the Bago Region Forestry Department.

Besides reining in timber production, over 350,000 acres of forest will be established from 2017 to 2027, in order to compensate for deforestation, according to the Forestry Department.

The afforestation project includes establishing government-owned and privately owned forests, community forests, as well as conservation initiatives.

U Tin Aye, secretary of the Myanmar Forest Association, also stressed the importance of conserving existing forests.

“While afforesting, the government should also engage in conservation. It should have specific plans to prevent illegal logging,” he said.

According to a 2015 survey by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Myanmar had experienced the third-worst deforestation in the world in recent years, with the country losing at least 1.34 million acres of forest from 2010-2015.

In April 2013, the U Thein Sein government banned the export of raw timber in order to limit deforestation.

The export value of timber and forestry products averaged over $500 million annually before the 2013 ban on raw timber production. Still in the 2013-14 fiscal year, the export value reached nearly $1 billion, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

In the following fiscal year, the export value dropped to only $93 million, while in the 2015-16 fiscal year it was $212.9 million in, and in the 2016-17 fiscal year $247 million.

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, forests still cover 47 percent of the country.