The yearly increase in demand of timber has led to shortage of about 2.8mn cubic feet and the Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) has decided to import from India.
The NRDCL is currently awaiting confirmation from the West Bengal Forest Development Corporation Ltd. (WBFDCL). The confirmation from the Indian counterpart is expected sometimes between the month of June and July.
“We are doing our best to import from West Bengal. We have been keeping in touch with the officials and doing follow-ups,” said the Chief Executive Officer of NRDCL, Gyem Tshering.
If the confirmation comes through then an analysis will be carried out by the NRDCL, where factors like the species, cost factor and the country’s requirements will be analyzed.
However, the import will not be cheap, since the NRDCL is looking at import in high quality timber; the rate will be more expensive compared to the local price, as the average timber auction in India is expensive.
For instance, the in-country’s timber price ranges from Nu 90.04 to 276.96 a cubic feet (cft), so the rate of imported timber will be Nu 2000 a cft.
Gyem Tshering said if this opportunity comes to no avail, then other alternative will be sought in South East Asian countries, like Malaysia and Myanmar amongst others.
There are no guarantees as to whether these countries will be forthcoming, as these countries are also looking at their own forest conservation, but the NRDCL would explore all options. The rationale behind the move is to reduce the growing pressure on Bhutan’s forests and the country’s policy to maintain 60% forest cover for all times.
Earlier, the Department of Forest and Park Services had made attempts to increase the quantity of timber, including opening up new forest management units, but, failed to cater to the demand. Consequentially the timber import came-up as a feasible option.
Timber shortage has always been a concern for the NRDCL, since the demand exceeds supply due to the constant constructions, be it large or small infrastructure projects in the country.
With the little area designated for timber harvesting, the NRDCL also has to comply with the national policy.
Yearly, the NRDCL is reported to plant about 80,000 saplings on a coverlet on 50 hectares of land, but, this is a difficult task, owing to the current forest coverage of 72.5%, only 65% of Bhutan’s area is under tree cover.
And with 51% falling under protected areas, only 6% forest cover caters to the accelerating demand for timber.
The NRDCL’s Annual Report 2011 shows a drop in its target achievement, the report states that timber production was 1.944mn cft against the target of 2.004mn cft, this shortfall in production has been due to unavailable operation sites.
The disposal of timber was 1.972mn cft against the target of 2004mn cft.
The shortfalls in the target have also been attributed to the corporate social responsibility, which went as a direct contribution, for example, the new township at Bajo, Bumthang’s fire victims, earthquake victims at Haa, and resettlement at Pemagatshel.
Currently, there are about 90 licensed sawmills and 181 licensed wood-based industrial units , these cottage industries require timber for their businesses. But when it comes to import, it will not just be the Bhutanese agencies but even individuals will be eligible.
The imported timber can be brought in for commercial or personal purposes, or even for resale inside Bhutan, except exporting.
According to the Timber Pricing and Marketing Policy 1999 and Forest and Nature Conservation Rules 2006, exporting of timber is banned, but its import was approved last year in August by the agriculture and forests ministry.