Burma’s forest coverage has been reduced to about one-fifth of the country’s total area: this is the outcome of a report released by the Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Committee of the Lower House of Parliament. The total area of forest coverage was down to 24 per cent in 2008 from 57 per cent in 1962, the committee’s secretary, Thein Lwin, told a recent national seminar workshop on energy, environment and climate change held in Naypyitaw, according to local media.
The main cause of forest depletion was due to excessive cutting of timber, illegal logging, less replanting, changing ecological conditions and the increased use of firewood. One result has been an insufficient supply of hardwood to manufacture finished-wood products, say businesspeople. It is worth to mention however that the international demand of hardwood - notably teak- is fueling the plundering of the forest. But logging and export don't stop. Burma’s export of finished wood logs amounted to US$ 453 million in the fiscal year 2008-09 while it was $ 641.87 million in the fiscal year 2011-12.
Burma produced nearly 283,000 cubic meters of teak and 1.98 million cubic meters of hardwood annually. Forest products are about half-owned by the private sector. The country is a major exporter of teak in the world, with 75 per cent of the world market. It exports teak mostly to India, followed by China, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Burma is the only country in the world that currently harvests quality teak trees from natural forests.
In 2010, the combined worldwide area of natural teak forest was estimated at about 29 million hectares, almost half of which is in Burma. Burma is the only country that currently produces quality teak from natural forests. Natural teak forests grow only in Burma, India, Laos, and Thailand, but India, Laos and Thailand have bans on logging in he remaining fragments of natural forests.
Asia holds more than 90 per cent of the world's teak resources, and India alone manages 38 per cent of the world's planted teak forests. Planted teak forests are increasing in area and producing high quality wood, the report said, when good management practices are applied. On average, it takes between 20 and 80 years for planted teak to grow to harvestable size, according to a FAO report, but not many operators want to wait 80 years before to sell the timber, so plantation teak is usually produced from young trees and its quality is low in comparison the the teak coming form ancient forests.