| Boiling Point No. 13 - August 1987 |
Summary of its report by Dr. A. Fraser for the International Tobacco Information Centre, March 87.
The decline of the world's forest resources and identification of the contributory causes has directed criticism at, amongst other consumers, the tobacco industry. Deforestation is of fundamental concern in the conservation of natural resources and all sectors of the world's economy which use forest products should be assessing their demands upon those reserves and pacing consumption with replenishment.
To establish firm, incontestible data, upon which analysts and commentators may found their research, the International Tobacco Information Centre in Brussels commissioned a study on the subject by independent consultants. The study was carried out by International Forest Science Consultancy, the Scottish organisation based in Edinburgh.
In order to obtain an accurate estimate of the amount of wood consumed by the tobacco industry, a detailed survey was carried out in seven countries - Argentina, Brazil, India, Kenya, Malawi, Thailand and Zimbabwe.
The report concludes that, although the tobacco industry's use of wood is very small in comparison with total consumption in the tobacco-growing countries, the consequences of deforestation, especially in arid and semi-arid areas, are so serious that all wood users must take steps to conserve the existing resource and create new plantation supplies for the future.
So long as wood is treated as a "free good" and its price does not reflect its replacement cost, the destruction of the forest will continue. Positive action and commitment is needed on the part of governments, working in co-operation with the tobacco growers and manufacturers.
The IFSC report indicates that some tobacco growers in the third world are inefficient in their use of wood as a fuel. It suggests that "an SFC (specific fuel consumption) of 2-3 kg wood/kg of tobacco is a reasonable target for the industry" whereas "the present average SFC for the countries studied is between 4.8 and 12.9." This is a much wider efficiency gap than that between a 3-stone fire and a good "improved" cooking stove and calls for urgent action by the tobacco industry. The industry should and could establish its own plantations to meet all its own needs and the needs of the tobacco growers.
The figures of 0.7 or 1.0% for the proportion of total wood fuel consumed by the tobacco industry in Third World countries may conceal a situation in some of the countries where the proportion is very much higher, and where the poor village housewife has no alternative could not afford to compete with industries for "economically" priced fuel and must have firewood if she and her family are to survive. She has neither the land, nor the capital, nor the time to grow- a fuel wood plantation. The tobacco industry could and should do so, either at a plantation scale or by helping small farmers to start wood lots.
Please contact IFSC, 10 Woodhall, Millbrae, Edinburgh for full details of the IFSC report.