September 2, 2014

Portugal: best paper, worst forest

Watch the video below.

This looks fantastic, a cause for national pride. But what does this video not show?
  • In the last 30 years, the eucalyptus plantations area in Portugal (dominated by the species Eucalyptus globulus) increased 10 times. The country now has the world's fifth largest area of ​​these plantations. However, productivity remains today identical to that recorded in 1928.
  • In the last 15 years, the national forest area, in opposite of what happens in the European Union, fell by about 150 000 hectares, corresponding to a net loss rate of -0.3% per year.
  • Between 1990 and 2010, the economic weight of the Portuguese forest, valued at the net Added-Value of forestry under the national GVA, lost around 67% -  from 1.2% to 0.4% (in 2012 stands at 0, 5%). The Portuguese forestry sector decreased its weight in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of nearly 40% between 2000 (3.0%) and 2010 (1.8%).
  • In social terms, in the last two decades, employment in Portuguese forestry sector showed a sharp decrease between 1995 and 2010, about 160 000 less jobs.
  • Regarding the risk, there are particularly prominent statistical records relating to forest fires. Portugal recorded, between 2000 and 2009, about 35% of the burnt area of all five southern Member States of the European Union (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and France). The most affected regions in the country are the North and Center, associated with the production of wood, with particular highlight to areas occupied by the maritime pine and eucalyptus regions, mainly privately owned, with predominantly small farms, fragmentation of rustic ownership, owners disorganization - either on technical and commercial issues – where markets are dominated by win-lose relations protagonized by industrial oligopolies protected by political power.

Burned area/year/10 Km2 (2006-2010) - FAO, Unasylva 242

We are not against eucalyptus plantations, when they respect principles of technical, environmental, social and economic nature. We recognize the technological advances in the manufacture of paper in Portugal. But, we do not agree with the forest policy followed by the country in recent decades, in which the pulp and paper sector protectionism has enjoyed political protection at the expense of forest, rural populations and territory.

The country currently has, as the second largest exporter, an industry group of pulp and paper production. However, in overall, exports of forest-based products are much less than it was in the recent past. Eucalyptus plantations have increased substantially in recent decades, but the country experiences a situation of deforestation and the national forest is a victim of rising risks along these same decade impacts.

Now draw your conclusions.

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