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Rubberwood 5, 6- Availability and Conclusion article
5.1 Rubberwood availability

An appropriate starting point in determining the outlook on rubberwood availability is a look at current projections concerning rubber prices. After the decades-long decline of natural rubber prices to historic lows, international rubber bodies have recently made more optimistic assessments. In 1998, the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries (ANRPC) reported production in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea would decline, but output in India, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam was expected to expand (Koetsawang, 1998). In 1999, the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG) announced that world production of natural rubber would fall short of consumption in 2000 for the second year in a row, leading to a further reduction of stockpiles. The Secretariat of the International Natural Rubber Organization (INRO) has warned of a shortfall in natural rubber supply within ten years unless current trends are reversed.

The International Rubber Research and Development Board has also argued ahead of its 2000 annual meetings that emerging into the new millennium there should be no cause for pessimism in the global natural rubber business. Competitive pressure from other crops may force rubber cultivation to shift into other areas. The Economist Intelligence Unit expects prices to double in 2001, partly because of the current surge in crude oil prices which is leading to higher carbon black prices in the USA. Nonetheless, rubber prices may continue to hover at lower than expected levels, at least until INRO releases its stock of 140,000 tons, which is supposed to be completed by June 2001, as part of its dismantling process.

These expected world demand and price developments, at the very least, should signal to rubber growers that the crop is worth maintaining. On the other hand, the prospect of higher rubber prices, similar to the Asian financial crisis, may induce rubber growers to hold off on replanting while the higher prices last.

The following sections review information on outlook studies that have been done, primarily for Malaysia and Thailand, the two producers with the largest stake in rubberwood supply and demand trends. For selected countries, quantitative assumptions found in the literature are used to derive rough estimates for rubberwood availability.

5.1.1 Malaysia

The Malaysian government has recently confirmed rubber's designation as a strategic commodity. As outlined earlier, the main agencies responsible for coordinating smallholder activities have similarly drawn attention to a strong policy in support of the maintenance of rubber plantations. In spite of these declarations, replanting rates have fallen short of planned and targets, casting doubt not only on the possibility that the decline in rubber plantation areas can be reversed, but also on the long-term projections made during the early part of the 1990s, when replanting rates were considerably higher than they are now. Current replanting rates need not concern us for the moment, however, since trees felled until 2010 were planted during the 1980s.

Table 30 Projected total wood production from rubber plantations in Peninsular Malaysia from 1996-2012

Year

Estates

(`000 m3)

Smallholdings

(`000 m3)

Total

(`000 m3)

1996

2,899

4,208

7,107

1998

1,951

6,685

8,636

2000

2,683

6,062

8,745

2002

1,847

4,961

6,808

2004

1,488

3,451

4,939

2006

1,431

5,157

6,588

2008

1,720

7,261

8,981

2010

1,334

4,748

6,082

2012

581

2,626

3,207

Source: Arshad & Othman (1996).

The replanting rates reported for 1971-87 translate into projected total rubberwood production indicated in Table 30 (Arshad & Othmar, 1996). To derive these, the authors assumed yields of 190 m3 and 180 m3 of greenwood up to 8 cm diameter for estates and smallholdings, respectively. Assuming 57 m3 of usable logs and 18.1 m3 of sawnwood from estates and 54 m3 of usable logs and 10.8 m3 of sawnwood from smallholdings, in turn, produced the outlook on rubberwood logs and sawnwood illustrated in Table 31.

A more conservative assessment was made by Ismariah & Norini (1994). In their projections, they assumed gross yields of 180 m3 and 100 m3 (branches above 5 cm) and net volumes suitable for sawnwood processing of 20 and 15 percent for estates and smallholdings, respectively. While the outlook was more sober, the declining trend in rubberwood availability was confirmed.

Table 31 Projected log and sawnwood production from rubber plantations in Peninsular Malaysia from 1996-2012

Year

Estates

Smallholdings

Total

 

Logs

(`000 m3)

Sawnwood

(`000 m3)

Logs

(`000 m3)

Sawnwood

(`000 m3)

Logs

(`000 m3)

Sawnwood

(`000 m3)

1996

870

276

1,263

253

2,133

529

1998

585

186

2,006

401

2,591

587

2000

805

256

1,819

364

2,624

620

2002

554

176

1,488

298

2,042

474

2004

446

142

1,035

207

1,481

349

2006

429

136

1,547

309.

1,976

445

2008

516

164

2,178

436

2,694

600

2010

400

127

1,425

285

1,825

412

2012

174

55

788

158

962

213

Source: Arshad & Othman (1996).

What both of these outlooks appear to leave out is the fact that a considerable share of resources is economically unavailable, estimated to be as much as 20 percent (ITC, 1993). Subtracting this from smallholder plantation areas where trees reach 25 years of age (according to the age distribution data reported in Section 3.1.2 on page 14) and using conversion rates averaging those used by the two outlook studies quoted above generates the projections illustrated in Figure 10 and Figure 11.

The graphs in Figure 10 and Figure 11 corroborate the trends indicated by Arshad & Othmar and Ismariah & Norini. First, an increasingly larger share of total rubberwood production will be available from smallholder plantations. Second, rubberwood log and sawnwood availability will decline steadily until 2004 and bottom-out in 2010 after a short recovery around 2007. These projections may yet prove to be too conservative, in large part because smallholders may chose to postpone replanting if rubber prices increase as expected during the early part of this decade.

Figure 10 Adjusted outlook to 2016 for rubberwood log availability in Malaysia

Note: amounts are in thousand cubic metres.

Figure 11 Adjusted outlook to 2016 for rubberwood sawnwood availability in Malaysia

Note: amounts are in thousand cubic metres.

5.1.2 Thailand

The outlook for Thailand is in some ways similar to that of Malaysia. Both countries have well established, high quality rubber plantations dominated by smallholders. Both countries have made significant inroads into downstream rubberwood processing. Yet the rubber growing sectors in both countries are beginning to show signs of saturation and moves into other crops, though more so in Malaysia than in Thailand. There are also some important differences. Most significantly, Thailand's rubber sector has been expanding throughout the 1990s and is developing a new rubber growing stronghold in the northeast, whereas Malaysia's sector has been contracting. In addition, rubber replanting programs have been more successful in Thailand, providing a more stable long-term outlook to potential investors.

In the projection illustrated in Table 32, the authors assumed that total rubber plantation areas would remain stable at 1.89 million ha; 90 percent of the total area can be economically accessed; sawlog yields are 55 m3 per ha after a 25-year rotation; and logs can be processed into sawnwood with a 30 percent recovery rate (Promachotikool & Doungpet, 1996).

Table 32 Outlook for rubberwood availability in Thailand

Year

Plantations

<5 years old

(`000 ha)

Plantations

>5 years old

(`000 ha)

Total

(`000 ha)

Felled area

(`000 ha)

Available

sawlogs

(`000 m3)

Potential

sawnwood

(`000 m3)

1992

784

1,104

1,888

48.0

2,360

710

1997

864

1,024

1,888

56.0

2,800

840

2002

1,008

880

1,888

67.2

3,320

1,000

2007

1,136

752

1,888

75.2

3,890

1,170

2012

1,360

528

1,888

75.2

4,180

1,250

2017

1,552

336

1,888

75.2

4,460

1,340

Source: Promachotikool & Doungpet (1996).

Compared with data from other studies, this projection is somewhat on the optimistic side with respect to economic availability (ITC in 1993 estimated only 80 percent to be economically available) and with respect of annual felled areas (average areas felled in 1986-1990 and 1991-1995 were 38,300 ha and 33,077 ha, respectively; Paechana & Sinthurahat, 1997). Even so, potential rubberwood and sawnwood availability in Thailand compares very favorably with that of Malaysia.

5.1.3 Indonesia

Indonesia is at present the world's second largest producer of natural rubber after Thailand. Despite acute price fluctuations in the past several years, Indonesia's production volume and exports of rubber have not been significantly affected. From 1993 to 1997, Indonesia's rubber production rose by 1.3 percent on average, from 1.48 million to 1.55 million tons. In 1997, Indonesia exported 1.43 million tons of processed natural rubber, but exports declined by 19.2 percent in 1998, as importers were reluctant to purchase this commodity from Indonesia due to its uncertain political situation. Rubber experts predict that this decline is only temporary and that the annual global demand growth of 2.1%, mainly from the tire industry and other downstream industries, will cause Indonesia's future production and exports to rise again. Rubber estates have gradually been converted to oil palm plantations as the obtained revenue from palm oil has been shown to be at least double to rubber.

The implications of these developments for rubberwood availability are threefold. First, since estates in Indonesia are most likely the main source of rubberwood, availability will gradually decline as larger plantations switch to crops that are more profitable. Economically available plantations have been estimated as low as 45 percent (ITC, 1993).

The lack of information on rubber tree age distributions makes projections difficult. At best, the following rough calculations can provide a point of departure using 1998 as a base year. Assumptions include that rotations are 25 years for estates and 35 years for smallholdings; that all estates qualify as economically available areas; sawlog yields are 36 m3/ha for estates and 15 m3/ha for smallholdings (using the estimates of Ismariah & Norini for Malaysia); recovery rates for sawnwood are 20 percent. These assumptions give the estimates of potential production shown in Table 33.

Table 33 Potentially available rubberwood logs and sawnwood in Indonesia in 1998

    Production stage

Estates

Smallholdings

Total

    Rubberwood area (`000 ha)

551

2,848

3,399

    Estimated replanting areas (`000 ha)

22

81

103

    Total economically available (45 percent of total area)

248

1,282

1,530

    Potentially available logs (`000 m3)

793

367

1,161

    Potentially available sawnwood (`000 m3)

159

105

303

This very rough estimation would indicate a level of potential sawnwood production in 1998 that is about 10 percent higher than the conservative estimate for the same year by Ismariah and Norini (1994) for Malaysia.

5.2 Rubberwood demand by processing industries

Potentially available rubberwood need not find an outlet concerned with producing finished rubberwood products. As has historically been the case, a substantial share of harvested rubberwood is either burned at the site or used for fuelwood or charcoal. The increasing use of rubberwood in furniture, furniture parts and panel products suggests, however, that a growing share of available rubberwood finds its way to primary and secondary processing industries.

The momentum that has been created by Malaysia and Thailand will likely encourage other rubber producing countries, particularly Indonesia, to promote more rubberwood utilization. Information on future developments in processing capacity is typically scarce, with the exception of information for Malaysia and Thailand. Table 34 to Table 36 present some forecasts for these two countries.

A number of points are of particular interest in the information provided in these tables. First, the data for Malaysia reveals that significant supply shortfalls are expected for rubberwood sawlogs during the years 2002-06 and again from 2010 and for rubberwood chip logs during the years 2004-06 and again from 2010. These expectations will likely translate into higher prices paid to rubber farmers in close proximity to processing centers.

The second point to note is that, in contrast to Malaysia, Thailand is not expected to face a similar shortage (compare Table 32 with Table 36). For each of the years reported, potential sawnwood supply is at least 300,000 m3 greater than projected demand.

Table 34 Supply and demand of rubberwood sawlogs in Malaysia in 1996-2012

Year

Supply and demand of sawlogs ('000 m')

Available supply

Projected demand

Difference

2000

1,837

1,569

269

2002

1,429

1,600

-171

2004

1,037

1,632

-595

2006

1,383

1,665

-282

2008

1,886

1,698

188

2010

1,278

1,732

-454

2012

673

1,767

-1,094

Source: Arshad & Othman (1996).

Table 35 Supply and demand of rubberwood chip logs in Malaysia in 1996-2012

Year

Supply and demand of chip logs ('000 m3)

 

Available supply

Projected demand

Difference

2000

4,285

2,880

1,405

2002

3,336

3,168

168

2004

2,421

3,485

-1,064

2006

3,228

3,834

-606

2008

4,401

4,217

184

2010

2,980

4,639

-1,659

2012

1,572

5,103

-3,531

Note: chiplogs have diameters below 8 cm. Source: Arshad & Othman (1996).

Table 36 Outlook for demand for various wood products in Thailand

    Product

2002

2007

2012

2017

    Sawn hardwood

5.59

6.69

7.90

9.28

    Sawn rubberwood

0.70

0.78

0.86

0.96

    Plywood and veneer

0.76

0.92

1.08

1.28

    Fibreboard

0.31

0.39

0.48

0.57

    Particleboard

0.55

0.75

0.99

1.29

    Poles

1.90

1.90

1.90

1.90

Note: all amounts are in thousand cubic metres. Source: Promachotikool & Doungpet (1996).

5.3 Export potential of rubberwood furniture

This section addresses the export potential of rubberwood in its two most important forms: furniture and sawnwood. The export potential of rubberwood-based plywood, particleboard and particularly MDF is not assessed in this study because it would be necessary to undertake a more in-depth analysis. It should be noted, however, that if rubberwood processing into panels was to increase dramatically this could limit the availability of rubberwood for the two uses examined here.

To ascertain the likely future demand for rubberwood furniture it is necessary to place trade and consumption of rubberwood furniture in the context of overall furniture trade and consumption. Table 37 shows the relative importance of rubberwood furniture and wooden furniture imports in the main import markets.

Table 37 Relative importance of rubberwood in imports of wooden furniture in 1991

Country/Region

Total wooden furniture consumption

Total wooden furniture imports

Rubberwood furniture imports

Total imports as a percentage of consumption

Rubberwood imports as a percentage of total imports

United States

16,896

1,910

657.5

11.3

34.4

Japan

15,670

585

248.8

3.7

48.6

Europe

43,177

8,058

190.7

18.7

2.4

Taiwan Province of China

386

41

10.3(1)

10.6

25.1

Republic of Korea

1,820

33

8.9

1.8

26.7

Singapore

110

212(2)

25.3(2)

N.A.

11.9

Total

78,059

10,839

1,177.5

13.8

10.8

Note: this table includes imports of parts (1) and imports that are subsequently re-exported (2). Imports are measured in US$ million. Source: ITC.

The share of the wooden furniture market held by imports is increasing in the United States of America and Japan. In particular, imports to Japan are increasing rapidly. The recent trend in Japanese imports of wooden furniture is shown in Table 38.

Table 38 shows that Japanese imports from Asian countries increased by 48 percent from 1989 to 1993, while the overall increase was only 17 percent. The formidable growth of Japanese imports of wooden furniture from the main rubberwood producers Thailand (170 percent), Indonesia (241 percent) and Malaysia (671 percent) is evident.

Table 38 Japanese imports of wooden furniture by source (Million yen)

Country/Region

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

Asia

38,251

41,108

46,693

51,346

56,518

Republic of Korea

5,052

5,187

4,463

3,699

3,547

China

1,731

1,721

2,232

3,225

4,991

Taiwan Province of China

17,049

14,467

14,353

13,945

12,562

Hong Kong SAR, China

708

820

1,015

1,152

1,103

Thailand

6,342

9,055

12,199

15,094

17,128

Singapore

4,108

4,358

4,968

4,537

3,636

Malaysia

634

1,359

2,397

3,403

4,886

Philippines

177

269

329

403

496

Indonesia

2,302

3,371

4,502

5,643

7,850

India

73

109

89

98

35

Others

75

93

115

147

286

Europe

22,588

33,518

26,982

21,509

14,766

North America

3,917

5,416

5,251

4,867

4,465

Others

254

245

167

194

163

Total

65,010

80,288

79,093

77,915

75,912

Note: all amounts are in million Yen. Source: MOF.

It is estimated that two thirds of the world market for furniture is made up of industrialized countries (Europe, the United States of America and Japan). There are several factors that explain the growth of wooden furniture imports by the main consuming areas. This trend is likely to continue and probably accelerate in the short and medium term. The factors in favor of wooden furniture imports include:

    · increasing production costs in the furniture industries of the main consuming countries;

    · low cost of imported furniture parts, which furniture producers can use in the manufacturing of their products;

    · increased demand for low to medium priced wooden furniture;

    · demographic changes (younger buyers no longer see furniture as once-in-a-lifetime purchases and tend to buy cheaper furniture); and

    · increasing demand for fitted furniture, which can be produced on an industrial scale and is easily transported in knockdown form.

Global furniture imports and exports are shown in Table 39 and Table 40. The percentage of total furniture imports accounted for by wooden furniture is not available for all countries, but it is estimated to be between 40-60 percent. Table 39 shows the recent strong growth of furniture imports to the United States of America and Japan (the main markets for rubberwood furniture) and Table 40 shows that in recent years, exports of furniture from the main rubberwood producing countries have grown strongly (61 percent in Malaysia, 56 percent in Thailand and 76 percent in Indonesia).

The trends in furniture imports and exports support the conclusion that rubberwood furniture has become increasingly accepted in recent years. The upward trend in international demand for rubberwood furniture is likely to continue in the future in view of the high level of imports and preference for low and medium priced wooden furniture in large consuming countries such as the United States of America and Japan.

Table 39 World furniture imports in 1992-1995

Country

1992

1993

1994

1995

United States of America

6,086

6,905

8,290

9,128

Germany

6,333

5,007

5,580

6,584

France

3,262

2,474

2,737

3,206

Japan

1,741

1,933

2,677

3,155

Canada

1,546

1,740

1,908

1,985

United Kingdom

1,917

1,614

1,727

1,915

Netherlands

2,148

1,458

1,611

1,857

Belgium

1,794

1,340

1,546

1,776

Switzerland

1,561

1,386

1,544

1,738

Austria

1,135

1,100

1,245

1,455

Hong Kong SAR, China

678

791

967

997

Russian Federation

287

451

795

1,157

Sweden

817

617

764

850

Mexico

399

446

613

449

Italy

706

537

582

699

First 15 countries Total

30,410

27,799

32,586

36,951

World Total

37,471

33,066

38,476

43,089

Note: all amounts are in million US$. Source: CSIL processing of UN data.

Table 40 World furniture exports in 1992-1995

Country

1992

1993

1994

1995

Italy

5,947

5,797

6,735

8,366

Germany

4,878

4,090

4,356

4,882

USA

2,983

3,309

3,729

3,806

Canada

1,389

1,693

2,180

2,620

France

1,935

1,649

1,808

2,080

Taiwan Province of China

1,840

1,840

1,800

1,764

Denmark

1,723

1,599

1,786

2,160

Belgium

1,566

1,409

1,499

1,622

China

825

1,083

1,496

1,765

United Kingdom

1,153

916

1,109

1,338

Sweden

997

850

1,014

1,391

Poland

404

581

895

1,338

Netherlands

1,124

877

878

959

Mexico

481

659

851

897

Indonesia

491

676

784

866

Malaysia

394

566

769

916

Spain

614

553

729

1,036

Hong Kong SAR, China

432

569

709

770

Thailand

486

594

708

757

Austria

709

651

715

817

Total ( 20 countries )

30,371

29,961

34,550

40,150

World Total

34,459

34,707

39,973

46,645

Note: all amounts are in million US$. Source: CSIL processing of UN data.

The prospect for rubberwood furniture demand is less favorable in Europe because of competition from low-priced furniture from Eastern Europe. In this area, rubberwood imports are mainly confined to rubberwood flooring (Netherlands and Germany). In addition, European imports of furniture, although the largest in terms of percentage of consumption, tend to be mainly from other European countries.

In Table 41, strong growth of imports from Eastern Europe can be observed. Imports from Asia grew strongly at the beginning of the 1990s following the dislocation of industries in Eastern Europe but has since slowed down considerably.

Table 41 The sources of European Union furniture imports 1990-1995

Country/Region

Imports (in million ECU)

Share %

% change

 

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1990

1995

1990-95

Europe

9183.7

9944.5

10324.8

8272.2

9265.9

9340.2

93.4

86.9

1.7

European Union*

8112.4

8746.2

8987.2

6786.2

7546.7

7276.7

82.5

67.7

-10.3

West. Europe others

220.4

271.4

275.1

269.0

278.2

339.8

2.2

3.2

54.2

Eastern Europe

850.9

926.9

1062.5

1217.0

1441.0

1723.8

8.7

16.0

102.6

Africa

58.4

96.5

113.7

154.9

194.0

232.3

0.6

2.2

297.8

America

147.7

185.1

238.4

305.2

321.9

316.8

1.5

2.9

114.5

North America

128.1

151.1

170.5

184.2

191.8

178.0

1.3

1.7

39

Central & South America

19.6

34.0

67.9

121.0

130.1

138.8

0.2

1.3

608.2

Asia

379.7

562.2

645.5

781.0

823.0

857.0

3.9

8.0

125.7

Middle East

43.5

48.2

59.2

58.3

64.6

79.3

0.4

0.7

82.3

Central Asia

42.1

60.5

74.4

99.8

104.0

101.3

0.4

0.9

140.6

Far East

294.1

435.5

511.9

622.9

654.4

676.5

3.0

6.3

130

Oceania

1.4

2.5

2.6

2.2

2.5

2.1

0.0

0.0

50

Unspecified

64.3

1.7

1.0

1.8

5.5

2.1

0.7

0.0

-96.7

World

9835.3

10792.5

11326.2

9517.3

10612.7

10750.6

100.0

100.0

9.3

* All major producers/exporters. Denmark not included because data not available. Source: CSIL

The Chinese furniture industry produced US$ 8.8 billion worth of products in 1997, competition is increasing and supplies of some varieties are outstripping demand. Domestic producers are facing increased competition from imported products for which tariffs have been cut. Imported furniture in 1997 was worth about US$1 billion. Domestic demand has increased at about 10 percent a year. While preferences in the North are for darker woods, southern China's trend is towards the use of lighter species such as beech, birch, maple and pine. Many of these are imported from the U.S. and Europe. (FDM Asia, 1998)

At the global level, markets will not be an obstacle to growth for rubberwood furniture and furniture parts. Wooden furniture markets are receptive to new products and new designs using rubberwood. In addition, there is a current positive perception about rubberwood. The positive perception among many buyers in Europe, Japan and the United States is the fact that rubberwood is obtained from a renewable resource. Furniture retailers may use this argument to point out the advantage of utilizing a hardwood that is not endangered and is being replanted. Furthermore, its extraction causes little threat to wildlife and, combined with latex production, it represents an efficient type of land use. This has become a distinct advantage for the marketing and acceptance of rubberwood products, especially in countries where environmental lobbies are strong.

5.4 Export potential of rubberwood sawnwood

Malaysia was the first countries to utilize rubberwood at an industrial scale, starting with the production of sawnwood (mainly for export), which stimulated the development of the larger rubberwood industry. Some technological adjustments were needed in order to process rubberwood sawlogs, which tend to come in smaller sizes and shorter lengths. The peak of rubberwood sawnwood exports from Malaysia was reached in 1989 with 221,000 m3 exported, as previously discussed in the footnotes to Table 18.

After the imposition of an export levy and quota in 1990, exports of rubberwood sawnwood from Malaysia decreased rapidly. Rubberwood sawnwood exports were completely banned in 1994. The levy and subsequent ban were certainly successful in encouraging the further processing of rubberwood. An analysis of export statistics, post levy and quota imposition, revealed that export earnings from value added activities, particularly furniture exports, increased significantly. More recently, sawmillers and rubberwood suppliers have lobbied for the reinstitution of an export quota, claiming that stocks in excess of 140,000 m3 were a heavy burden on cost structures. In 1999, customs seizures of sawn rubberwood bound for Hong Kong and Taiwan were frequently reported in the news.

The potential of sawnwood exports to Europe and the United States of America is relatively low, since further processing is relatively intensive-intensive, requiring a high degree of visual grading, collection of off-cuts and residues and sorting them for further processing in order to maximize the yields. This makes it very expensive to process rubberwood in these countries. Rubber producing countries with nascent rubberwood industries, however, may be expected to make inroads into international sawnwood markets in the short to medium term. As the example of Malaysia shows, however, government policies to encourage domestic processing may well curtail such trade.

6. CONCLUSION

The rapid establishment of rubberwood as an important wood product in furniture and furniture manufacturing, as well as its increasing use in the wood-based panel industry has justifiably been called a `success story.' While Malaysia has been at the forefront of this development, other rubber producing countries in the Asia-Pacific countries have yet to make full use of their potential. What follows below is a list of aspects that will impact on the development of rubberwood's role to the year 2010.

Factors contributing to a positive outlook for rubberwood include:

    · Rubberwood's properties, particularly its light color and easy machining will continue to make it a popular substitute for wood from increasingly scarce natural forest trees. Modern heat/steam/vacuum systems have largely mitigated the problems associated with the wood' latex content.

    · Environmental concerns in consumer markets will increasingly shift preferences to wood products obtained from plantations. This will give rubberwood an advantage over some of the more traditional tropical woods used in furniture and wood-based panel manufacturing. Recent strides in rubberwood plantation certification confirm this development. On the other hand, rubberwood has to be able to compete with increasingly abundant softwood plantation species, particularly New Zealand pine.

    · Where rubber tree planting programs are effective and economically accessible, rubber plantation areas can be maintained, as in Thailand, secure rubberwood supplies can provide the investment security necessary for expanded rubberwood utilization. In Thailand, for instance, potential sawlog and sawnwood availability is projected to increase from 2.8 million m3 to 4.18 million m3 and 0.84 million m3 to 1.25 million m3 from 1997 to 2012, respectively.

Obstacles to increased rubberwood utilization comprise:

    · Rubberwood's susceptibility to insect and fungal attacks will continue to make it economically unviable for the majority of rubber producers. Increased accessibility will only come with general socio-economic development, particularly in the transportation sector.

    · Trends in the ownership structure indicate that an increasing share of rubber will be produced by smallholders. Their difficulties in profitably utilizing rubberwood will likely bring about shortages where demand outstrips what estates can supply. In Malaysia, for instance, where both estate and smallholding areas have been declining since the 1980s, sawlog availability is expected to decrease from more than 1.3 million m3 in 2000 to less than 0.5 million m3 in 2010 and sawnwood availability from more than 300,000 m3 to just over 100,000 m3. In Indonesia, estate areas have declining as well, but improving current underutilization may compensate for the smaller volume of mature trees available to 2010.

    · Localized supply shortages and associated price developments may end rubberwood's comparative advantage over other wood species. Since rubberwood comes in small sizes, it is suitable for the wood-based panel industry. If Malaysia's OSB trials become applied at larger scales, for instance, competition for rubberwood between furniture and panel manufacturers may lead to further price hikes.

As has been indicated earlier, the relative lack of information makes more specific projections impossible. It is to be hoped that the effort displayed in this article can serve as a motivation for future in-depth work.




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