+ Forestry

Date: 06/11/2013

A common and untrained observer will not have a hard time to notice the differences between a natural and a planted forest. However, when the word “forestry” comes up, many people have doubts regarding its real meaning. This is a natural and expected reaction, since it hasn’t been too long that forestry gained some space within the media and in debates involving wood demand, environmental concerns and social issues.

Formally, forestry can be defined as the science dedicated to the study of establishment and managing of forest stands, aiming to meet the market’s demands. However, in a popular concept, forestry can be understood as the cultivation of trees for many and diverse ends.

Planting trees seems like quite a simple activity, and it really is, when it is limited to one tree or two in a backyard. But when it comes to a large scale forest enterprise  for industrial purposes, or an urban afforestation project, forestry requires a lot of technical knowledge, and above all, careful planning.

Forestry performed in Brazil involves mainly species from the genus Eucalyptus, Pinus, and more recently the species Toona ciliata, originally from Australia and known in Brazil as Australian cedar. The Indian teak (Tectona grandis) has been planted for some time mainly in the states of Mato Grosso, Amazonas and Acre. In Rio Grande do Sul, the most planted exotic species is the black acacia (Acacia mearnsii), from which the wood and bark are utilized. From its bark, tannins used in leather tanning are extracted. With the exception of the teak, all above mentioned broadleaf species are, coincidentally, from the Australian continent and its nearby islands.

Eucalypts in Brazil

The first forestry studies in Brazil regarding eucalypts started right at the beginning of the 20th century, when forester Edmundo Navarro de Andrade carried out initial tests comparing eucalypts to national tree species. Because it is a fast growing tree and easily adapted to different soil and weather conditions, planted eucalypt became a rational alternative against national forests’ devastations. Today, the massive  establishments of this genus are destined to the production of charcoal for pig iron, steel and ferroalloys industry, and also to the production of pulp, paper, particleboards (also known as chipboards) and even cleaning products, air fresheners and  medicines. The use of lumber from these planted forests has been growing steadily complementing its role as a rational protector of native forests.

The entry of the eucalypt in the attractive cellulose market represented an unprecedented advance to the Brazilian industry and opened doors to new kinds of ventures in the sector. As a result, Brazil is today the world’s largest producer of short fiber cellulose, with a total amount of 14.16 million metric tons produced in 2010. From this total, 8.37 million were exported.

It is a widely known fact that Brazil, where entrepreneurial forestry is relatively recent, presents the largest forest yields in the world.

In Minas Gerais, the first commercial eucalypt plantation was established by the Companhia Siderúrgica Belgo-Mineira (today Arcelor Mittal), in Santa Bárbara, in the year 1949. This state still has the largest planted forest area in Brazil, 1,477.2 thousand hectares. From this area, 1,401.8 thousand hectares consist of eucalypts and 75.4 thousand, of pines.

The eucalypts here are mainly destined to the production of charcoal, but plantations for pulp and particleboards are also significant. Also on the rise is the planting of eucalypts by farmers who see it as a good source of additional income for their properties. That wood gets sold for shoring in constructions, firewood and also to mills in which fence poles, mainstays and utility poles are treated against decaying.  The larger logs are sold to sawmills.

Benefits of forestry

Planted forests bring environmental, economic and social benefits. Their cultivation represents an efficient way of preserving native forests. Each hectare of high yield planted forest produces wood equivalent to 10 hectares of native forest under a sustainable management regime. Among the economic and social benefits are, mainly, the creation of jobs and tax revenues. According to data provided by the Associação Mineira de Silvicultura, forest activity in Minas Gerais generates around 76.5 thousand permanent jobs, directly. By including indirect employment and the so called income-effect, the number of people benefited reaches 300 thousands. Great evidence of these benefits can be observed by looking at the Human Development Index (HDI) of the areas where forestry is most intensively present. In these municipalities the HDI has grown 17%, in 10 years, - compared with the state as a whole, which has shown a 10.9% growth within the same period.

Future plantings

The commercial forest plantings in Minas Gerais have grown steadily between 1999 and 2008, from 35 thousand hectares to 200 thousand hectares per year. From this amount 145 thousand were destined for energy (charcoal) only. As a result of the general economic slowdown by the end of 2008, the area planted each year was reduced to 130 thousand hectares in 2009 and 2010. Some pace was recovered in 2011, when 143 thousand hectares were planted.

In September 2009 a law (Law 18.365  of September 1st, 2009)  approved in Minas Gerais determines that charcoal consumption from native vegetation must not exceed 5% as of 2018. Therefore, charcoal consumers must make sure they will have a source of wood based on planted forests in order to meet this legal requirement. This law also means that the market will be open and available to independent eucalypt growers.

To sum up:

Forest plantations:

  • Provide wood and its derivatives to supply the demands;
  • Improve air quality;
  • Equilibrate and soften the area’s temperature;
  • Provide clean and renewable energy;
  • Reduce the greenhouse effect;
  • Create jobs and generate tax revenues;
  • Enhance the region’s social and economic conditions.

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