Russia - Forestry

Russia's forested areas are vast. In 2000 an estimated 851.4 million hectares (2,104 million acres) were classified as forested—an area larger than the total land area of Australia. Only half of this area is commercially accessible and only 7–10% is currently exploited. Russia contains 25% of the world's forested area; 20% of the worlds forests are in Siberia. The forest stock in Russia is 80% coniferous, consisting mainly of spruce, fir, larch, and pine in subarctic areas; these stands account for 52% of the world's coniferous areas. Deciduous trees (birch, oak, beech, ash, maple, elm) grow further south and account for 13% of the world's deciduous forests.

In 2001, the timber cut yielded 77.7 million cu m (2.74 billion cu ft) of roundwood. Production that year included (in cubic meters): sawn timber, 19,000,000; plywood, 1,590,000; and particleboard, 2,482,000. In 2001, Russian exports of forest products were valued at over $2.5 billion. Japan accounted for 30% of the market in 2001.

In 1992, a year after the dissolution of the USSR, the forest products industry underwent massive changes. Hundreds of inexperienced new businessmen were attracted to the business of buying logs from newly-unregulated leskhozes (forest villages legally entitled to harvest and manage forests). Widespread privatization in the forest products industry began in 1993. Rocleskhoz, the federal forest service, is responsible for overseeing management of forests. The forestry industry is a multi-layered bureaucracy where wood processing companies must pay about 40 different taxes, which has prompted some to act outside the official system. During the 1990s, about 50% of all forestry firms went out of business, and about 60% of the firms remaining are believed to be on the verge of bankruptcy. The failing firms are often pressured to cut trees and sell logs for quick cash to pay off debts so they will be allowed to stay in business. Poaching, unsustainable logging, and fire damage are growing problems. Much of the forestry equipment is too old or expensive to operate, with the result that output per worker is at 1960s levels. Though the government is trying to encourage exports of higher value products, lack of investment has hindered plans to decrease the 40% export share of softwood and hardwood logs.

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