Tropical countries produce about 35% of the world production of “roundwood” (total wood removals), which amounted to about 3.4 billion m3 (cubic meters) in 1988, and about one-fifth of the world’s wood products (Amelung, Torsten and Diehl, 1992). Most international tropical hardwood now comes from Southeast Asia – Malaysia, Indonesia and The Philippines – although the industry has shifted from The Philippines to Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo (Kalimantan, Sabah and Sarawak) as the forests in The Philippines are now seriously depleted. Southeast Asia has become dominant in this trade because its forests are very rich in commercial timber species and contain a large proportion of light hardwood trees, which are most in demand in the international market. In 1988, Malaysia provided 62% of legal timber product exports, worth $1.5 billion, most of which went to Japan; while Indonesia provided 22% (Dobson, 1995). At current rates of cutting, commercially-valuable trees will be gone from Malaysian and Indonesian Borneo early in this century. As these forests are becoming depleted of hardwoods, many of the Southeast Asian timber companies have headed for South America. South American logging mainly supplies internal demands, although there is a substantial export business in hardwoods, especially mahogany. Africa also produces much wood for export, although the percentage of foreign exchange earned by timber products is much lower than in Southeast Asia. In Cameroon and Liberia, 12% of exports consist of timber and wood products (Dobson, 1995). Forty-five percent of the global demand for tropical timber comes from Japan, for which wood is the second most valuable import; Japan is followed by Korea and Taiwan (Amelung, Torsten and Diehl, 1992). Tropical wood is made into plywood, veneer, and forms for concrete for construction purposes. The plywood and veneer are exported as finished products and are important in the Japanese economy. The wood construction forms for concrete are used once or a few times and then discarded. The United States is the second largest importer of tropical hardwoods, with demand continuing to grow. Tropical woods are still only a small part of the US market for wood, however, and are used for paper pulp and chip wood, as well as for furniture and construction. Although the US could be self-sufficient in hardwood production, tropical hardwoods are cheap (and of course the destruction cannot be seen).

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