Chhimi Dema 

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests approved timbers from the Natural Resource Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) depots to be exported on a one-time only basis.

This is because there was no market for the timber across the country and export of the logs was banned.

The NRDCL will now export about 170,809 cubic feet (cu ft) of old broadleaved timber.

The ministry made a similar effort to facilitate timber export in 2020, but the Lhengye Zhungtshog did not approve the request.

An official from the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoPFPS) said that the NRDCL has proposed the export of unsold timber to avoid further deterioration of the timber, despite various other initiatives that have already been taken based on the directives of the government in 2021.

The Forest and Nature Conservation Rules and Regulations of Bhutan 2017 states that the export of timber either in log or sawn form, or as firewood, is banned. However, the rule states that the ministry may consider an open auction for export of timber that does not have market within the country, and those timbers that remain unsold in three consecutive allotment systems.

With the ban on timber export, there was a total of about 1.1 million (M) cu ft of timber (broadleaved and conifer species) in depots across the country.

“The quantity of timber being utilised [exported or value-added] is comparatively lower than previous years due to fewer developmental activities as a result of the pandemic,” the official said.

The department’s records show that 3.57M cu ft of timber were cut from 2020 to November 2021.

In 2020, a total of 2.3M cu ft was extracted. Until November of last year, 1.28M cu ft of timbers were extracted.

The official said that the department issued an order to halt commercial timber extraction and keep the trees in standing form until the market improves for export. “But timbers were harvested from forest areas that are infested and damaged by forest fires, pests, and diseases, particularly bark beetle-infested trees.”

The official explained that sanitation operations are allowed to continue, since keeping those areas unoperated may result in infestation of the nearby healthy forest. “These operations are based on sustainable forest management principles.”

The department has allowed the NRDCL to install mobile sawmills to convert the log timber into sawn form to store until the market is accessible.

NRDCL is selling old timber stock at a discounted rate, sawing and seasoning, and adding value to their timber stock by developing home and office furniture.