Major Change Required Regarding License for Wood Panel Industry: Ply Reporter Expert Talk

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The wood panel industry has evolved in so many years, now it is more dependent on agro-based raw materials like plantation timber, sugarcane, rice husk and many other agriculture residues. Still, the law sees it based on different traditional factors and thus is there are bottlenecks for the industry to flourish. The industry, institutes, as well as experts of wood based industries reason that when everything is agro-based, there is no need of NGT’s intervention on licensing process of Wood Based Industry. They also opined to make the wood panel industry free from license.

Having a discussion during PLY REPORTER’S webinar on “Agro Forestry and Future of Panel & Furniture Industries”, Mr Moiz S Vagh, Managing Director, Hunsur Plywood Works Pvt Ltd clearly mentions that it does not leave scope for the industry to grow, so licensing has to go. Timber is available and farmer should be allowed to grow more timber and the market will perfectly make balance in demand and supply of timber. The farmers will also be paid better if it happens. Mr JK Bihani, President, HPMA also says that if everything is dependent on agro forestry, there is no need of licensing and NGT’s interference in wood panel industry. Currently, license is provided depending upon the availability of timber; however, being an agro timber dependent product, the raw material supply can be met by farmers as per demand generated by number of factories.

Mr Sunil Pandey, Vice President, ITC also said that the licensing should be taken off. In case of bamboo, it takes 13 years. There are many species that have to be freed from licensing and many species should be considered within the bracket. There is no relevance of licensing for an industry based on agro forestry. Dr CN Pandey, Technical Advisor, FIPPI & Century Ply Boards (India) Ltd says that it has become a major stumbling block for panel industry. ITC also said that the licensing should be taken off. In case of bamboo, it takes 13 years. There are many species that have to be freed from licensing and many species should be considered within the bracket. There is no relevance of licensing for an industry based on agro forestry. Dr CN Pandey, Technical Advisor, FIPPI & Century Ply Boards (India) Ltd says that it has become a major stumbling block for panel industry.

Mr Sunil Pandey, Vice President, ITC also said that the licensing should be taken off. In case of bamboo, it takes 13 years. There are many species that have to be freed from licensing and many species should be considered within the bracket. There is no relevance of licensing for an industry based on agro forestry. Dr CN Pandey, Technical Advisor, FIPPI & Century Ply Boards (India) Ltd says that it has become a major stumbling block for panel industry. 

The way forward is to join hands with the farmers, is the route that ITC and WIMCO have followed. No company can own a land beyond what is allocated." Mr HD Kulkarni, Forestry Consultant

We are hoping that something positive will happen. We should call it agro wood in place of plantation timber. Let us have a new definition of green wood. In this regard required discussion is going on.”

The search of Sustainable & Suitable agro wood for Wood Panel sector continues. During a webinar organized by PLY REPORTER on “Agro Forestry: Sustainable Timber for Panel and Furniture” the panellists were of the view that Popular and Eucalyptus are not perfectly fit for high grade quality plywood manufacturing. To improve the quality and sustainable availability of wood for the industry, we need to work on tree development and observe a consolidated approach. With four pillars such as Industry, Farmers, Institutes and the Government, we can bring a change.

After imposing ban on cutting trees in 1996 in the country, in the last 25 years nothing much has been achieved in terms of developing wood from agro-forestry that could support the industry for making good quality plywood and panels. So, the journey of wood panel industry in terms of having improvement in raw material quality and its availability is still at a nascent stage. This industry has a lot of scope to grow which is currently stuck due to the policies.

Mr AC Lakshamana, IFS (Retd), Former Secretary, Govt of Karnataka said, “At one time India was occupying 30% of global market, but today we are one of the major importing countries even after having availability of a lot of varieties, manpower resources and land with us. There must have gone something wrong. We have lost the sustainability parameter, and to be sustainable in Agroforestry we have to win the heart of the farmers, educate them and also creating awareness is much important.”

The experts say that in future the industry would also need to adopt the consolidated approach for tree development in partnership with institutes and farmers adopting long term model for 5, 7 or 10 years just like the paper industry has done and obtained considerably good result.

Mr RK Sapra, Ex PCCF and MD, Haryana Forest Development Corporation says that it is only the market dynamics that decide which species would be grown and what would be the rotation period of plantation trees.

It is evident that Popular was developed largely for Match Box Industry and Eucalyptus for paper industry, and for that WIMCO and ITC came in. Today SME sector is not able to do it because there is a lack of fund and resources. As some of the panelists said that the industry stake holders should come together and take this initiative to plant specific quality species for specific use for wood panel industry.

But the question arises that how to get sanctioned the land for this consolidated approach. Secondly, if the institutes are working for timber development tirelessly then why there is less awareness about a particular species other than Poplar and Eucalyptus.

Dr SK Nath, Ex Joint Director, IPIRTI says that the forest policy 1988 says that grow your own raw material and for that the mindset of industrialists has to change and create a consortium for finding land and growing wood on them by holding hand with farmers. For the plywood industry nearly 70 mncbm of round logs are coming from plantation and their own resources. So, there is land as well as growers are available in India, so initially find some timber which have at least medium density and get it approved by Institutes and R&D establishments and promoters. So, it can be achieved by just motivating and hand holding of farmers and creating awareness among them.

"The Gujarat model of plantation should be seen. The federation has given 250 lakh saplings to farmers in last 20 years. They also buy back. For better output of quality timber the awareness of seasoning and treatment is must." Mr Naval Kedia, President, Federation of All India Timber Merchants Saw Millers and Allied Industries

Is it only the commercial activities or the dedication is also required to make aware the stake holders as well, to create farming consortium? Mr HD Kulkarni, Forestry Consultant says, “If we look for land for plantation or captive plantation, no company can own a land beyond what is allocated. The way forward is to join hands with the farmers, is the route that ITC and WIMCO have followed. For hand holding we compensated the farmers for what they have grown and for finance, loans were arranged for farming community.”

Another model described by Mr Naval Kedia, President, Federation of All India Timber Merchants Saw Millers and Allied Industries. He says 70,000 saw millers within the federation we adapted to support planter for plantation. The Gujarat model of plantation is there to be seen, the federation has given 250 lakh saplings to farmers in last 20 years. They also buy back. Secondly, for better output of quality timber the awareness of seasoning and treatment is must. It can be done with community approach and the Government support. That will help them achieving the value addition in wood and improve the quality of products.

Mr Jaideep Chitlangia, General Secretary, FIPPI and MD, Duroply Industries Ltd says, “We should make effort to support the farmers. In 1970s India was net exporters of wood products. In last 35/40 years we become largest importer of wood products. So, it has to be a three way (Citizen, Industry and Government) approach then we can together generate quality raw material and fulfill the requirement.”

According to the experts opinion the tree improvement program will make sustainable availability of quality wood for the industry and meet the consumer needs and expectations. Mr HD Kulkarni, Forestry Consultant says that there are many countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania who have adopted tree improvement program and are getting better yield and quality output in Eucalyptus. So, we should learn from them, as we also have lot of varieties that we can use for tree improvement program.

Mr Anand Amrik Singh, Senior Technical Expert & Progressive Farmer says that the practices adopted in North India are just for lower end segment. To get the international quality and meet their standard we will have to modify these timbers as they have limitations, so that we cannot make value added products.

“As an alternative Melia Dubia is catching the market basically in South India as the industries there are making both, core as well as face from it, but the discussion is for its rotation and suitability for technological development for its operations and uses. Another best quality of timber is Lambu wood. It is a bit costly but gives excellent quality with high density,” he added.

“We should make effort to support the farmers. In 1970s India was net exporters of wood products. In last 35/40 years we become largest importer of wood products. Mr Jaideep Chitlangia, General Secretary, FIPPI and MD, Duroply Industries Ltd
"There is no relevance of licensing for an industry based on agro forestry." Mr Sunil Pandey, Vice President, ITC
The exclusive Melia Dubia core plywood can be observed by the industry as specialty product. The alternate with Melia Dubia and Eucalyptus can create high quality plywood, ” he added. Dr KT Partibhan, Dean (Forestry), Forest College and Research Institute, Tamilnadu

In the country as well the program is going on in different way or with personal capacity like Dr KT Partibhan, Dean (Forestry), Forest College and Research Institute, Tamilnadu informed that they are promoting Melia Dubia and many other species across Tamilnadu and entire South India as an alternative, for which the quality grade rotation has been fixed, varieties have been identified and the technical specification/sizes have been standardized.

He emphasized that the contract farming is the way by which the industry can have tree improvement program. The contract farming is ongoing project with consolidated approach of research institutes, industry and farmers. The tree with which they are working extensively is Melia Dubia. “It is from low density to high density wood and to have better yield and use its plant must be grown to 4 to 5 years. The tree with more than 30 inch girth gives us medium density to low density which is suitable not only for core veneer but face veneer as well. The exclusive Melia Dubia core plywood can be observed by the industry as specialty product. The alternate with Melia Dubia and Eucalyptus can create high quality plywood,” he added.

Dr CN Pandey, Technical Advisor, FIPPI and Century Plyboards (India) Ltd:  Imagine if there would not have been agro forestry what would have been our status and living. With Popular and Eucalyptus, a good quality plywood/panel can be made, there is no doubt about it.

but it need to be grown for long years like EU and America up to 25 to 30 years. So, we have to think for agro forestry, farmers and their income as well. Definitely we are lacking it with short rotation of agro forestry. Neither industry nor the forest department thinks of solution for face veneer. In future we should think of technology that can produce plywood without face veneer or recon veneer.

Dr Ashok Kumar, Scientist-G, FRI stated that we should not be selective in species but also develop the clones. “We develop different standard for the requirement of pulp so would be the case in plywood also. There are means and techniques these days which really can fit into it. The industry has to grow specific material for specified use,” he added. 

Dr MP Singh, Director, IWST and IPIRTI revealed that IPIRTI is working on different properties and age group and also trying to have BIS standard as the demand has come from different industry. So, we should have specific timber to be used to make different specific purposes. We need to make some changes, standard to use timber and have BIS standard for plantation timber in BIS itself. There are some standard which still exist that were before the ban in 1996 was imposed, but that are irrelevant because we are not getting anything from forest.

Mr Subhas Jolly, President, WTA warned the stakeholders saying that it should be remembered that if the demand and supply is not supportive to the farmers, they will not take interest in plantation later.

CONCLUSION

If there is willingness of industry stake holders, institutes and associations, they can develop, finance and distribute saplings and create awareness among farmers. The willingness of institutes can create quality species and together we can obtain quality timber and have a bright and sustainable future of wood based industry.  Resonating with the responses from the experts, it can be concluded that licensing matter needs immediate re-thinking. There is no relevance of licensing for an industry based on agro forestry. It is stopping the growth and prospects of an industry.

 

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