Chilean forestry exports expected to near record high in 2011

The country’s second largest export has grown 13 percent between 2009 and 2010 and are predicted to hit US$5.2 billion in 2011, just short of the 2008 peak of US$5.4 billion.


Like most sectors of Chile’s rapidly growing economy, the forestry industry has recovered rapidly from the financial crisis of 2009, with nearly 13 percent growth in 2010.

The President of the Chilean Wood Corporation, Fernando Raga, now says he believes exports will grow again next year and approach the record high of US$5.4 billion (CP$2.5 trillion) seen in 2008.

In an interview with Chilean business daily Estrategia, Raga predicted that exports will total nearly US$4.7 billion (CP$2.2 trillion) by the end of the year, and said 2011 should see growth of another 13 percent, to US$5.2 billion (CP$2.4 trillion).

Forestry produces Chile’s second highest volume of exports after copper and accounts for 3.1 percent of Chile’s gross domestic product, along with direct employment of 130,000 people. The Chilean Wood Corporation (Corma) is an industry body that represents 200 businesses, universities and professionals associated with the sector, which includes industrial tree cultivation, paper, paper pulp and timber.

Roughly 21 percent of Chile’s more than 182 million acres (73 million ha), some 39 million (15.9 million) are covered in forest. While more than 85 percent of this is precious native growth forest,  98 percent of all forestry in Chile occurs on forests cultivated specifically for industrial purposes, protecting the natural trees. For the last decade reforestation levels in Chile have exceeded deforestation by nearly 25,000 acres (10,000 ha) annually.

In the interview with Estrategia, Raga said that much of the anticipated growth in the industry will come from standardization and modernization in paper pulp plants in Chile’s central Maule Region, the hub of the country’s forestry industry.

In the coming year, Raga says, Corma will work to promote more construction using wood within Chile. “It was confirmed for us after the earthquake that wooden buildings are more resistant to seismic activity,” Raga says, also noting the smaller carbon footprint associated with wooden structures.