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Woodcraft, furniture drive export industry

WOODCRAFT and furniture were last year¡¯s best selling exports, beating all other products, including electronics, in growth rate.
Growing at 86 percent in sales or at $825.7 million in 2006, the products emerged as the top eight exports of the country.
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They almost doubled their $441 million sales the year previous.
If the growth is sustained this year, the sales will most likely hit the $1 billion mark.
But the question on sustaining the growth was one of those raised by a team of furniture industry experts, who studied the ability of local industries to fight off imports and take any competitor in the global marketplace.
The study was commissioned by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The top issue raised by the research team was the recurring shortage of tropical hardwood, like narra, to sustain the industry¡¯s growth.
In the aftermath of the first total log ban imposed by the Aquino administration in the mid-80s, most industry observers thought furniture export was a sunset industry.
Its players reacted with creativity and invented the multi-media furniture that uses wood, stones, vines, bamboo and even steel as raw materials.
They also invented a niche for the Philippine furniture industry.
And they survived.
Honed to be at their best with the available materials they can access, local furniture and woodcraft makers, according to the study, learned to take advantage of the superior original designs of their craftsmen and designers and in recent years, climbed back to the top 10 top exports of the country.
Log ban
However, a new log ban was imposed by the administration, following the Quezon province tragic flash floods in December 2005.
This was later selectively lifted in some parts of the country.
Because of this, furniture manufacturers again survived by resorting to the use of plantation trees like the Philippine mahogany, gemilina and acacia.
The plantation forests, mostly set up during the Aquino and Ramos administrations when government-subsidized communities and industrial tree plantations were promoted as a national policy, are again getting depleted.
Since then, there were no serious efforts taken by the government to replant trees in the millions of hectares in denuded mountains and hills, the study said.
It also noted that there is a low enthusiasm among investors in forest plantations due to policy inconsistency and uncertainties.
A classic example of policy inconsistency was the failure of the plan of retired general Victor Corpuz to re-embark on a national reforestation program through the community-based tree plantation project dubbed Puno ng Buhay.
Under the program, denuded public forests were to be released to enterprising but poor families, individuals, groups or companies at a stewardship arrangement of at least 25 years to, at most, 50 years.
During the stewardship period, the steward was allowed to plant and harvest the trees on a profit sharing scheme with government.
The study said the program was meant to correct the failed reforestation programs of past administrations and create livelihood opportunities for mountain dwellers, a steady supply of fast-growing plantation trees for the woodcraft industry and an environmentally sound way of managing the country¡¯s forest resources. (Philexport News)