Pulping the South

Posted: 3 August 2010 in Brazil, Globalisation, New pulp mills

There are many reasons why the pulp industry is moving South. “Were it not for labour unions at home, we would be moving all of our production capacity to countries like Brazil,” a Stora Enso official told the Financial Times in 2005. I discussed this issue in a report I wrote a couple of years ago: “Plantations, Poverty and Power“.

One of the reasons is that fast-growing tree plantations in Brazil are precisely that: fast-growing. Recently, a colleague sent me the chart below, which illustrates the point very well. It compares the area of plantations needed to provide enough raw material to produce one million tonnes of pulp a year in Scandinavia, Portugal and Brazil:

Source: Sergio Schlesinger presentation at FASE workshop on climate change, energy and agrobusiness in Brazil, April 2010, based on information from Pöyry.

  1. Walter Bertoni says:

    If I understand right is better that the industry and wealth stays in Scandinavia, as well as wild forests and poverty in the South. In my neighborhood this is called pure hypocrisy. It is clear that your main target is that rich workers from the north stay rich, and poor workers and jobless from the south stay poor.

  2. Chris Lang says:

    @Walter Bertoni – no I’m not arguing that the industry and wealth should stay in Scandinavia or that wild forests and poverty should remain in the South. Obviously, you’ve never looked at the impacts of industrial tree plantations on the livelihoods and environment of the people living near them. The title of this post, “Pulping the South” is taken from a book written in 1996 published by World Rainforest Movement. The book is available here. You may also be interested in reading more about the impacts of industrial tree plantations on WRM’s website.

    The point of this post is simply to illustrate that production of pulp requires less land in Brazil than in Scandinavia. That is one of the factors that is driving the expansion of the pulp industry in the global South.

    • Walter Bertoni says:

      @Chris Lang I have read your book and I perfectly know WRM claims for more than ten years. I live in Mercedes Uruguay where according WRM we should be living in a desert like the Sahara because of eucalyptus forests drinking huge amounts of water. I know the facts and the only case that Mr. Carrere has repeated for year is of one farmer of Scottish heritage –nothing to do with aboriginal communities which do not exist in Uruguay- and former intellectual urban guerrilla in the sixties, called Washington Lockhart who claims that his farm well has been dried because of eucalyptus. Only one case –that I know it is totally fake, I know pretty well the area- in one million hectares of eucalyptus forests we proudly have in Uruguay, most of them FSC certified.

      Let me tell you a story, something like ten years ago, Mr. Carrere was visiting Mercedes and organized an open meeting to discuss eucalyptus forests problems. He had very sincere statement: “I am not interested to hear about experiences about plantations, I am very interested to hear about experiences against plantations”. Nobody told me that: I personally hear it.

      Anyway we Uruguayans are very grateful to WRM activity. In order to fight against pulp industrialization in Uruguay, they pushed Gualeguaychú people to fight against Botnia pulp mill. Thanks to that our small country had to suffer three year picket in the international bridge, and then in reaction Uruguayan people support to pulp mills went up from 50 to 90%. Thanks a lot, fortunately main Scandinavian companies like Stora Enso and UPM Kymmene are in Uruguay, the country where pulp industry has more social support in the world.

      The facts are what they are. WRM is supported by main Swedish NGO SSNC who is very worried about pulp mills in our South American continent, but says nothing about pulp mills in Nordic countries.

      These are the facts. WRM action explicitly or implicitly has the clear target to avoid pulp industry development in the South, and to preserve from concurrence Northern pulp mills which still produce more than three quarters of world pulp.

      You may wonder also why WRM has near zero support in Uruguay. Simply because the people realize that their claims were absolutely false, either regarding forests and pulp mills. They announced an environmental catastrophe in Uruguay River, and three year after the mill is running at full speed, people swims and fishes in front of it.

      I finally agree with you that the reason for industry to move to the South is that the development of eucalyptus plantation technology, a technology that was developed in the South not in the North, allows to produce same quantity of pulp with much less land, what means in fact much less cost. In a global environmental perspective, this is absolutely positive, to be more effective in the usage of natural resources, and to allow the people to reach paper products cheaper. Because you may know that paper consumption is growing because poor people in the South are reaching better living standards, so they consume more paper products. And this is socially very positive also.

      Thanks for the openness of your blog.

      Best regards,

      Walter Bertoni

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